Liquidambar styraciflua L.



All photographs are copyrighted and are the property of E. Brunner.

Family:  Hamamelidaceae

Native or Introduced to Illinois:  native 

Natural Habit in Illinois:  bottomland and floodplain woods; ravines

Leaf:  The star-shaped leaves, somewhat resemble maple leaves, except that they are arranged alternately instead of opposite.  The leaves are 18 cm wide with long, thin petioles (6-15mm).  Actively growing leaves are fragrant when crushed.  They are palmate in shape with five to seven lobes and saw-toothed margins.  Glossy-green in summer, the leaves turn bright yellow to deep red in the fall.  The undersides of the leaves are pale green with a coating of fine white hairs. 

Flower:  The small, greenish inconspicuous flowers have no true petals.

Fruit:  The woody, ball-shaped, pendulous, burr-like fruits (3-4 cm) contain numerous, small seeds (1 cm) that are winged at one end.  The seeds are contained in beak-like capsules to protrude from the surface (1 to 2 per capsule). 

Twig:   Young twigs are rusty red and frequently develop wings of corky bark. 

Bark:  The mature bark is rough, deeply furrowed and grayish brown. 


County Distribution Map for Illinois:  


Sources for the Sullivan Middle School Tree Identification Guide were obtained though the use of the following sites:

The information below is from the National Arbor Day Foundation.  This information can be viewed in the original (source) form by visiting The National Arbor Day Foundation at http://www.arborday.org.

Sun Exposure:  The sweetgum does well in Full sun.
Soil Type:  The sweetgum grows in acidic, loamy, moist, clay, sandy, wet, well-drained, wide range of soils.
Moisture:  Requires moist soil conditions, moderate drought tolerance.
Growth Rate:  This tree grows at a medium to fast growth rate.

Hardiness Zones: 5 - 9
The sweetgum can be expected to grow in the zones shown in color in the arborday.org zone map.