How to Identify a Sweet Gum Tree


Sweet Gum trees are large deciduous trees native to Eastern North America. Identifying them is quite easy during all seasons. So, if you are wondering if you have a Sweet Gum tree in front of you, read on….

  1. Look at the general shape of the tree. Mature Sweet Gum trees have what is known as an Ovular shape.
  2. Examine the leaf. Sweet Gum trees have a star-shaped leaf with five points. The leaf will have a saw-tooth or serrated edge. The upper side of the leaf is a dark green, while the under-side of the leaf is a pale green color. In Autumn, the leaves generally turn a reddish-purple or orange color.
  3. Examine the bark. Sweet Gum bark consists of long rough ridges. Many describe it as similar to alligator skin.
  4. Look for Seed Pods. After 20-30 years of age, Sweet Gum trees will begin producing seed pods every year. The pods are spiked/spiny and golf-ball sized. The pods generally litter the ground and immediate area of the tree.

Now, to read about some of the common areas to find a Sweet Gum tree, read on……

Where to find the Sweet Gum tree

Native Range of the Sweet Gum tree

Sweet Gum trees native range is from Texas to New York (via the Ohio River valley). All areas South East of that imaginary line (TX-NY) is the native range.

Natural Habitat of the Sweet Gum tree

Sweet Gum trees naturally grow in moist soils. So, you can generally find them growing along streams, shores of lakes, or and low-lying swampy areas. Most of the time you will find a dense stand of Sweet Gum trees, not isolated specimens.

Should you grow a Sweet Gum tree in your yard?

We’ve written a detailed article on the pros/cons of Sweet Gum trees. Including information on what to do, and what NOT to do in regards to planting Sweet Gum trees. You can read that article by clicking on the link below;

Sweet Gum Tree Reference Table, Growing Conditions & Facts

Common NameSweet Gum Tree
Scientific NameLiquidambar styraciflua
Garden ZonesUSDA Zone 5-9
Mature Height60-75′ (18-23 m)
Spread / Spacing40-50′ (12-15 m)
Sun RequirementsFull Sun
Soil TypeAcidic, Sandy to Clay
Growth Rate1-2′ per year (30-60 cm)
Tree ShapeOvular / Oval
Reference [1]

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References:

[1] – Silvics of North America: Conifers. By Russell M. Burns

Joe Foster

Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over six years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you! Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!

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