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Common Name:

American Sweetgum, Red Gum, White Gum, Star-leaved Gum, Alligator Tree, Bilsted, Satin Walnut

Scientific Name:

Liquidambar styraciflua

Family Name:



American Sweetgum is a widely distributed large deciduous tree native to the Southeastern USA. It has an attractive narrowly pyramidal form in youth becoming a more oval crown with age. The five-lobed, nearly star-shaped, dark glossy green leaves turn wonderous combinations of yellow, orange, red, and purple in autumn. Woody satellite-like capsules are a maintenance liability.

Plant Habit or Use:

Tree, medium tree, large tree



Flower Color:

Green, not ornamental

Blooming Period:


Fruit Characteristics:

Spherical woody capsule with dehiscent pointed protuberances.


40 ft to 60 ft in landscapes, double this in the wild


20 ft to 30 ft

Earth–Kind® Index:

  • Heat Tolerance: High Heat Tolerance
  • Water Requirements: Low Water Use
  • Soil Requirements: Low Soil Requirements
  • Pest Tolerance: High Pest Resistance
  • Fertility Requirements: Low Fertility Requirements
Explanation of the Earth–Kind® Index breakdown

Firewise Index

Explanation of the Firewise Index numerical value

USDA Hardiness Zones:

6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Regions that intersect these hardiness zones:
Region A - Panhandle and High Plains Region B - North and Central Texas Region C - Northeast and East Texas Region D - West Texas Region E - Upper Rio Grande Region F - Hill Country and Central Coast Region G - Southeast Texas Region H - Rio Grande Valley
Click image for enlarged map of USDA Hardiness Zones

Additional Comments:

The woody capsules are a maintenance liability. Trees are prone to iron chlorosis on neutral to alkaline soils.
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A Special Note about Cool Season Annuals

Cool season annuals typically are planted in the fall or early winter and flower in early spring under moderate temperatures. This group of plant materials includes: pansies, snapdragons, violas, dianthus, flowering cabbage/kale, etc. Because cool season annuals flower in the spring when conditions are mild, most have limited heat tolerance.

As a result cool season annuals do not receive a high Earth–Kind® index despite their outstanding landscape qualities.