American sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Quick facts and care essentials
• Zones 3-9, 14-37, 39
• Full sun
• Regular water
• Growth rate: moderate to fast
Narrow and erect when young, this tree becomes more rounded with age. It eventually reaches 60 to 75 feet tall. Spread is usually 20 to 25 feet, but trees may grow much wider in great age. Deep green, five- to seven-lobed, 3- to 7-inch-wide leaves turn purple, yellow, or red in autumn; fall color of seedling trees is variable, so select trees in fall leaf to be sure of good color. Branching pattern, furrowed bark, corky wings on twigs, and bristly fruits are showy in winter. Performs best in neutral or slightly acid soil; chlorosis in strongly alkaline soils is difficult to correct. Forms surface roots that can be a nuisance in lawns, planting beds, or narrow parking strips.