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 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
The flowers are monoecious and are in head-like clusters.
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.
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.
The bark is gray to gray-brown, with
deep furrows separating narrow, rounded, scaly ridges.
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.
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.
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