Sweet Gum

Sweet Gum trees can be found growing in many places around the Agnes Scott Arboretum, including at the tour stop that we call Forest Succession.

The Sweet Gum tree, or Liquidambar styraciflua, is a deciduous tree that is native to Georgia, and many other warm-climated areas throughout North and Central America.  At its full height, it can grow up to 150 feet tall.  It can be identified by its scaly, ridged bark, which is light brown tinged with red, and sometimes with darker streaks.  Another distinctive feature of the sweet gum is its namesake- its hard, dry, brown spiky “gum ball” seed capsules.  These balls often litter the ground beneath the trees.  The Sweet Gum’s leaves are a shiny, rich dark green, with a five-to-seven point star shape.  You can identify these features in the photo below of the leaf and fruit of a Sweet Gum tree at the Agnes Scott Arboretum.

Sweet Gum Leaf and Fruit

A bit of Sweet Gum Treevia–The dry fruit of the Sweet Gum tree is the subject of many nicknames springing from its unique appearance- from “gum balls” to “burr balls” to “space monkeys” to “bommyknockers”.

For more information on this tree species, click here.