American Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua

The American Sweetgum tree (species: Liquidambar styraciflua) is one of my favorite Autumn color trees. The image above is from a tree in Switzerland and the tree below is from a fine example near the base of the Eiffel tower in Paris. Both of these images give an idea of the magnificent range of bright colors that this tree can show off in the fall. It is for these colors that this tree species has become a favorite as an ornamental tree for parks, gardens and avenues.

The leaf of the American Sweetgum (also known as the Redgum) is a five pointed star like leaf that is similar to those of the Sugar Maple. It has a slightly serrated margin and measures about 4-6 inches across.
The "fruits" of the American sweetgum is one of the key identifiers for this tree species. They are small spiky balls that measure about an inch in diameter. They are bright green until they turn black after maturing and releasing their seed capsules. There are many names given to these curious little fruits including "space bugs".

The leaves have rather long stems that grow out of the ends of new branchlets as seen below.

The next image is a bit out of focus but serves to give an idea of the bark pattern of a young tree.


  1. I have always heard the fruit refered to as "Gum Balls"

  2. Thanks for teaching me about "space bugs". Pretty cool.

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  5. id like to know the how big the largest American sweet gum is, because I have near my back yard that's 13 feet and 3 inches in diameter and i have no idea of how tall it is but... its pretty tall.

  6. These are hardy trees that needs very little maintenance. The colours are amazing and gives a mistic feeling to the area.

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