Hamamelidaceae
The Witchhazel Family
 
 
    The witchhazel family includes 20 genera with about 50 species of plants that are scattered through the forests of North America, Africa, Asia, Madagascar, and the Malayan Archipelago.  One of these is a common tree in Florida.
 
 

 Click on the links below for an introduction to a tree of this family:
 
sweetgum
 
 
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Liquidambar styraciflua
sweetgum, redgum
 
 

Habit

    The sweetgum is a large tree, reaching 80-150 feet in height and 3-5 feet in diameter.  It has a buttressed base, a long clear, symmetrical bole, and a pyramidal or oblong crown.
 

Leaves

    Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  The leaves are 6-7 inches in diameter and are star-shaped, with 5-7 deep lobes.  The leaf apex is long-tapered.  The leaf bases are flattened or slightly heart-shaped.  Leaf margins are finely serrate.  The leaf surfaces are glabrous and lustrous green above, paler and somewhat pubescent below.  Leaf petioles are slender, often 4 inches or more in length.
 

Flowers
 
    The flowers are monoecious and are in head-like clusters.
 

Fruit
 
    The fruit is a persistent, woody head of many 2-celled capsules.  It is 1-1.5 inches in diameter.  Each capsule usually contains 2 seeds, which are black, terminally winged, and about 1/4 inch long.
 

Twigs

    The twigs are slender to moderately stout, yellowish to reddish-brown, and are aromatic.  They are more or less covered with corky outgrowths, which may become large and wing-like after a season or two.  The pith is  homogeneous and star-shaped.
 

Bark

    The bark is gray to gray-brown, with deep furrows separating narrow, rounded, scaly ridges.
 

Habitat

    The sweetgum is a typical southern bottomland tree that occurs most abundantly on moist, rich, alluvial soils in association with many other species.  It is also common on abandoned fields, where it frequently forms dense thickets.  It is found from Connecticut and Long Island west through southern New York, southern Ohio, southern Missouri, and eastern Oklahoma; south to central Florida in the east, and eastern Texas in the west.
 

Use

    The sweetgum is a valuable commercial hardwood used for many purposes, particularly veneer, furniture, interior trim, and woodenware.  The wood has been distributed and sold under the trade name of "satin-walnut".  It is widely planted as an ornamental because of its attractive foliage and brilliant autumn colors.
 
 

Click on the links below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
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Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 

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