Liquidambar Species, Sweetgum, Red Gum, Liquid Amber

Liquidambar styraciflua

Family: Altingiaceae
Genus: Liquidambar (lih-kwid-AM-bar) (Info)
Species: styraciflua (sty-rak-ee-FLOO-uh) (Info)
Synonym:Liquidambar barbata
Synonym:Liquidambar gummifera
Synonym:Liquidambar macrophylla
Synonym:Liquidambar styraciflua var. mexicana



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


over 40 ft. (12 m)


over 40 ft. (12 m)


USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us



Bloom Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Atmore, Alabama

Malvern, Arkansas

Alameda, California

Canoga Park, California

Chico, California

Clovis, California

El Cajon, California

Granite Hills, California

Harbison Canyon, California

JACUMBA, California

Marysville, California

Mountain View, California

Paradise, California

Rancho San Diego, California

Reseda, California

Salinas, California

San Diego, California

Wilmington, Delaware

Gainesville, Florida

Hampton, Florida

Hawthorne, Florida

Lecanto, Florida

Niceville, Florida

Pensacola, Florida

Port Saint Lucie, Florida

Venice, Florida

Lilburn, Georgia

Galesburg, Illinois

Muncie, Indiana

Benton, Kentucky

Ewing, Kentucky

Abita Springs, Louisiana

Edgard, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana

Vacherie, Louisiana

Zachary, Louisiana

Valley Lee, Maryland

Westminster, Maryland

Lawrence, Massachusetts

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Ridgeland, Mississippi

Saucier, Mississippi

Starkville, Mississippi

Stennis Space Center, Mississippi

Fulton, Missouri

Springfield, Missouri

Frenchtown, New Jersey

Neptune, New Jersey

Trenton, New Jersey

Concord, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina

Dundee, Ohio

Jamestown, Ohio

Albany, Oregon

Millersburg, Oregon

Royersford, Pennsylvania

Wynnewood, Pennsylvania

Belton, South Carolina

Conway, South Carolina

Summerville, South Carolina

Arlington, Texas(2 reports)

Deer Park, Texas

Jacksonville, Texas

New Caney, Texas

Santa Fe, Texas

Willis, Texas

Lexington, Virginia

Newport News, Virginia

Spotsylvania, Virginia

Seattle, Washington

New Berlin, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Oct 21, 2018, coki1981 from Oceanside, CA wrote:

Hi Dave and community,
I have a question about a young Liquidambar Styraciflua 'Festival' tree I have planted in my front yard. I live in Oceanside, California, (believe its Zone 10, USA). It is a younf vibrant tree, about 7 feet tall. Issue is that the tree is about 8 feet from the house, and I believe this is an issue since their root system is pretty invasive? I have 2 questions for you guys:
1) Do I need to move/transplant the tree to another area further away from my house? I can transplant it to my back yard where it could in about 25 feet from the house.
2) If answer is yes, when is it a good time to transplant it? Tree is a couple years old.... do I need to move it now (Fall-winter in Southern California), or more early spring? I read a few different opinions.<... read more


On Apr 5, 2016, opal92nwf from Niceville, FL wrote:

Beautiful tree. Tolerates the very sandy soil in NW FL, and gives a more lush look to the otherwise scrubby landscape here. Love the star shaped leaves, and I don't mind the seed pod balls: I think they look neat on the tree and are what make it unique. The fact of having such a wonderful tree overrides any of the negative aspects.


On Jan 13, 2015, R19 from adelaide,
Australia wrote:

I planted an avenue of these trees in harsh Australian conditions 25 years ago and never regretted it. The ground was hard, the climate hot and dry. I watered them through their first few summers and then only once or twice each summer. The young trees had a lovely conical shape and although this was lost over years, they kept their beautiful autumn colours and added a cheerful green welcome in summer. The trees with the most water had the fullest foliage and would occasionally send out suckers which I controlled. People always commented positively on my garden and I think the avenue of liquidambar (sweetgum) trees was the making of it.


On Apr 18, 2013, hateliquidambar from Mountain View, CA wrote:

This morning, on my walk through the park, I once again stepped on one of those horrid seed pods, twisted my ankle, fell hard to the pavement, injuring my knee, wrist, and scraping my hands. This is at least the third time this has happened to me in the last decade. Cities around here planted these trees everywhere back in the 60s as street trees. (Though the one that caused me trouble today is in someone's backyard, but overhangs the park, which is where I had my fall this morning.) Everyone I know who lives here hates them. The pods puncture bike tires, people fall on them, they get stuck in stroller wheels; and the roots tear up lawns and sidewalks. The autumn color is pretty, but beyond that, they are really not a particularly nice shape for a street tree -- and they are a hazard to pe... read more


On Oct 12, 2011, uglysteve from Apache Junction, AZ wrote:

This tree was for sale at a local garden center so I thought I would give it a try. I have been trying to get something with maple like leafs to grow here. I'm in the desert at 1800 feet. Sunset zone 12, soil is about PH 7.5, sandy and fast draining, in a wash, so it gets flooded about 10 times a year. Full sun. The tree has been in the ground about 2 years. It is not doing well, and may be dead. I will find out next spring. It looses all its leafs in August. Has problems with heat and soil. There are a lot of days over 110F. Growing next to Freemont and Lance leaf cottonwoods who are tolerating the conditions. Not a good tree for the desert.


On Sep 12, 2011, pjoid123 from Spotsylvania, VA wrote:

I live in a wooded area in Virginia. The sweetgum tree is about the worst piece of vegetation on my property. I've twisted my ankle a number of times on the seed pods (gumballs). They do have a nice purple color during the fall, but they are a messy tree. The last time I had a diseased tree removed I also had the tree service cut down and remove a number of sweetgum trees around my deck.


On Mar 17, 2011, themikeman from Concord, NC (Zone 7a) wrote:

I Live in a house in NC with a 1.5 acre front yard where 7 sweetgum trees were planted in 1942 when the house was built so they are now huge trees. Who in their right mind would plant 7 of these nasty sweetgum ball trees. We will have to rake up sweetgum balls from late January till the first week in May. It is back breaking and i am now disabled and can no longer rake them. yes, it is back breaking labor and they are exremely heavy in large piles to bag for even the healthiest grown man and they can be sharp like a razor if one of their spikes get under your finger nailbeds ouch!!. just a nasty buck eye ball like pod producing tree.


On Sep 8, 2010, cel41862 from Summerville, SC wrote:

I have a sweet gum tree in my side yard that is about 80 to 100 ft tall. I Love this tree but there is a problem!!! We moved in to this house and the tree was already here, and it has this huge vine that is growing in it. The vine has pretty much taken over the tree. The other thing is that the base of the tree has a hole in it. I will try to get a picture on here so you can see, but the base is split right after the hole. In other words there is like two trees growing from one base. I have no idea if this tree can be saved but I would really like to if possible.Could someone please help with this? Can this tree be saved or is it pretty much history? The hole at the bottom of the tree almost looks like a hobbit home if that helps.LOL


On Apr 23, 2009, Wolfgang_E_B from Fulton, MO wrote:

This tree is definitely hardy well into zone 5. We had big, old trees all over Missouri when I was a kid (about 40 years ago), in areas only recently reclassed as zone 6 due to climate change. Many of those trees are still standing.

While I'm not crazy about the spiked balls, the autumn color and scent of the foliage, especially after a rain, make it worthwhile in my opinion.


On Aug 18, 2008, rntx22 from Puyallup, WA (Zone 8b) wrote:

My mom planted one of these in our backyard when I was little. It is now about 20 years old. I would say that it is kind of a slow grower in my region. In Houston, we don't really see the 4 seasons (it goes from summer to winter it seems!!) so any tree that gives good fall color is a plus in my book. Just watch out for the spiny balls.

As for suckers or offshoots, in all 20 years of having this tree, this was the first year a little tree started to grow off one of the surface roots. I wanted to try and harvest it somehow to make 2 trees, but there was no way to remove it without cutting it off of the main trees root. Oh well.


On Mar 18, 2008, robcorreia from San Diego, CA (Zone 10b) wrote:

I have many of those on my front yard. Beautiful! I LOVE the little balls, and so do the goldfinches that flock to my garden all winter long and hang onto them to eat the seeds.

I also found out those are GREAT SLUG REPELLANTS. Just circle your affected plants with the pods and slugs will stay away!


On Dec 12, 2006, gooley from Hawthorne, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

I have at least ten acres of these on my 36-acre patch of north Florida, and they are trying to take over everything. They are attractive, fast-growing, producing some winter color -- but they also sucker like mad. I have about a 6-acre patch of solid sweetgum, skinny trees about 50-60 feet tall and very thin and very close together; most of them if not all seem to share a root system, rather like a grove of aspen in the high Rockies. Between the "gum ball" spiky seed-bearing fruit and the long-ranging roots (suckers thirty feet or more from the nearest tree, and I pulled up the connecting root so they weren't seedlings) mine spread great distances and are not easily removed.

These trees are native as far south as Honduras (in the mountains there, mind you). The wood is ... read more


On Nov 30, 2006, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Sweetgum, Red Gum Liquidambar styraciflua is native to Texas and other States. This is a beautiful tree.


On Sep 22, 2006, jon3333 from New Berlin, WI wrote:

Great fall color! I like the interesting star shaped leaves in the summer and the unique bark in the winter. Planted 2 trees in the front yard AWAY from my house and so far they have grown wonderfully. I would keep this tree away from anything you don't want the gum balls to fall on.


On Feb 6, 2006, raisedbedbob from Walkerton, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

According to the Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants, the hardened sap that exudes from wounds in the tree has been used as a substitute for chewing gum in the South.


On Nov 6, 2005, Sarahskeeper from Brockton, MA (Zone 6a) wrote:

When I first moved into this new house I planted 2 Sweetgum trees in the front lawn.
They are seldom seen around here and I liked the shape, autumn color and quick growth.
Fortunately my trees produce very few seed.
The leaves have a nice evergreen fragrance when crushed and the bark on young branches has long cork like spines, interesting.
Now, 19 years later there are some shallow roots that make mowing tricky but otherwise I'm very pleased.
They have withstood 80 MPH winds, drought and blizzards with little damage.
Andy P


On Sep 29, 2005, escambiaguy from Atmore, AL (Zone 8b) wrote:

This tree is very common here in S.Alabama. It grows along roadsides everywhere(which is why it is never planted). The seed balls can be a nuisance to some people.However,it is a fast growing tree for shade. Sweetgums seem to tolerate high winds very well. I saw very few of them blown over after the hurricanes.


On Nov 13, 2004, TREEHUGR from Now in Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

In response to the negative comment,
This tree is native to much of the northern half of the state of Florida. As for the fall color, there are numerous pictures online to prove it's a beautiful tree in the fall.

Commercial value? It's valuable alright! Second only to oak amongst hardwoods for furniture, flooring etc.

It's not an invasive species and could hardly be considered a weed in zone 10. I think it would struggle to even survive in southwest florida where the negative commentor is. It's a fast growing shade tree, and seems to do o.k. here although I lost a few. Still not sure what happened to them but I really don't think they like this horrible fill they haul in here even though they supposedly tolerate a wide variety of soils, the only spec... read more


On Nov 11, 2004, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

Even though it produces the stickery seed balls, I still love this tree. It has glorious autumn color here in West KY and the trees are so uniform in shape, they look like beautiful columns of red or gold.

When my Mom sold the farm where we grew up, one of the things I transplanted to my yard was a Sweetgum seedling dug from the fencerows. It has rewarded me with a lovely maroon showing this year, and though it is much too small yet to produce seedballs, it is in a corner of the property, away from walkways and gutters.


On Oct 31, 2004, IslandJim from Keizer, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

Tree's pretty much considered a weed here. When I lived in Maryland, I thought so there, too. Seed pods are a genuine nusiance and the fall color--even among the patented cultivars--isn't that great. It may have commercial value, but I've never hear of it if it does.


On Oct 24, 2004, monocacy from Thurmont, MD wrote:

This tree is an absolute pest, grows like a weed. I swore if I bought another house I'd remove every one of them. I bought a new house and never found one, thank heavens. I hate the spikey balls, I'm a 'bare foot' person.
One redeaming factor, it generally has fablious fall color. I guess if you keep it away frm people, it would be ok.


On Aug 18, 2004, OhioBreezy from Dundee, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

I am in northeast Ohio, and it grows wonderfully here - our zone is 5. hope that helps someone else out wanting to grow it, as it says lowest zones 6 here. ~ Laurrie


On Dec 11, 2003, dogbane from New Orleans, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

One of the few trees native to the deep south that gives dependable Fall color, though some years more intensely than others.


On Apr 4, 2003, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

A tree with gorgeous fall foliage (our neighbors have two in their front yards, and every fall I get "Sweetgum envy". But I also get their bagged leaves a few weeks later; dealing with the stickery seedballs always dampens my desire to have one in my yard!

I recently came across some interesting information for eliminating the seedballs. A product called 'Florel' made by Monterey Lawn & Garden can be sprayed on while the tree is in full bloom, and will supposedly eliminate the formation of fruit. One source says timing is crucial, and the application should occur just as the tiny balls form below the catkin.


On Aug 14, 2001, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

This is a tall, stately tree. Normally, the sweet gum reaches a height of 80 to 100 feet. When mature, its straight trunk is 3 to 4 feet thick at the base. Sweet gum leaves are deeply lobed and star-shaped. They turn gold, red, or a deep crimson in autumn. The fruit is a brownish, spiny ball that remains on the tree through the winter. The sweet gum is so named because it produces a gummy compound, called storax, that is used in making perfumes, adhesives, and salves. Sweet gum wood is fairly hard and heavy. People use it to make veneer, cabinets, and other products.I love the tree but the spiny ball's are a problem.