Plant Guide

Liquidambar styraciflua

(American) sweetgum, sweet gum, sweet-gum, (American) redgum, hazel pine, sapgum, bilsted, satin walnut, starleaf-gum

Large deciduous tree with a broadly conical outline. Native to southeastern United Sates, Mexico and Central America. Maple-like leaves, 7-13 cm wide, with 5 to 7 lobes and toothed margins. Spectacular autumn foliage display in shades of burgundy, red, orange and yellow. Inconspicuous greenish flowers in spring. Pendent, spiny, spherical fruits are produced by mature trees. These are green initially, turning dark brown later, and persist on the tree well after the leaves have fallen. Commercial hardwood in the US. The genus name refers to the resin exuding from the tree when wounded. Several cultivars are available with various growth habits and autumn colours.

Suitable for a sunny or partially shady, and reasonably sheltered position in any, preferably neutral to acidic soil. Copes well with less than ideal drainage. The photograph of the tree-outline in winter was taken near a stream in an area that occasionally floods. Leaves turning yellow between the veins may be an indication that the soil is too alkaline (in particular when it is also lacking in organic matter).

Striking shade tree with brilliant autumn foliage. Attractive when in fruit, especially after the leaves have fallen, but fruit litter may be a problem where Liquidambar styraciflua is planted on the lawn, next to foot paths or near gutters. There are non-fruiting cultivars, such as 'Rotundiloba'.

Type of plant

Tree - Deciduous


20-30 m tall

Landscape Use

shade tree, autumn foliage


  • Temperature: Hardy
  • Light: Medium High
  • Moisture: Medium
  • Soil: Light Medium Heavy
  • Wind tolerance: Average
  • Coastal tolerance: Average