Liquidambar styraciflua L.

  • Family: Hamamelidaceae
  • Common name: sweet gum

    Tree to 30 m (100 ft) tall and 1 m (3 ft) diameter, with conical to cylindrical crown. Bark gray-brown, deeply furrowed into narrow scaly ridges. Twigs thick, green when young and turning gray, often winged. Leaves alternate, long-petioled, almost star-shaped, 8-15 cm (3-6 in) long and wide, shiny dark green above, light green with tufts of rusty hairs below, turning red or purple in Fall. Flowers numerous in green ball-like clusters in early Spring. Fruits small, numerous, in prickly spherical clusters about 3 cm (1.2 in) in diameter.

    Distribution: Native to the southeastern third of the United States southward to Nicaragua.
    Comment: An important timber tree, widely used in furniture manufacture because it can be stained to resemble black walnut. Liquidambar refers to the amber-colored sap; styraciflua is derived from a Latin phrase meaning "storax fluid".
    NWI status: FAC
    Habitat: bottomland forests, mesic upland forests, abandoned fields.

    Distribution in Oklahoma:

    Last update: 9/14/99
    Go to Oklahoma Biological Survey Home Page