- Scientific name: Liquidambar styraciflua
- Family: Hamamelidaceae (witch hazel, liquidambar)
Straight-trunked deciduous tree up to 45m tall. Leaves 5–7-lobed, turning vibrantly red in autumn. Each tree has male and female flowers (monoecious): male flowers in heads on hairy spikes up to 8cm long; female flowers larger. Fruits in burred clusters, approximately 4cm in diameter, contain up to 120 seeds. Pollinated by wind.
- The timber of the sweet gum is valued for its close grain and red tinge, and is used for veneer and furniture.
- A resin called storax is extracted from the trunk of the sweet gum and is used in incense and perfume.
Where it grows
Central and eastern North America, and Central America. Moist-to-wet woods, tidal swamps, swampy bottomlands, streambanks, clearings and old fields, and mesic upland forests and forest edges. It grows best on the rich, moist soils of river bottomlands.
- Deciduous: sheds all leaves seasonally.
- Lobe: incomplete division in any plant organ (eg leaf).
- Mesic: moderate growing conditions without extremes, eg high or low temperatures.