Liquidambar acalycina
Common Name: sweet gum
Type: Tree
Family: Altingiaceae
Native Range: China
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 30.00 to 50.00 feet
Spread: 20.00 to 30.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Yellowish-green
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Shade Tree
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Good Fall
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Deer

Culture

Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Intolerant of shade. Prefers deep, continually moist, fertile soils, but seems to tolerate a wide variety of soils. Avoid alkaline soils however. Trees are not reliably winter hardy in the northern areas of USDA Zone 6, including St. Louis.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Liquidambar acalycina, commonly known as sweet gum, is a low-maintenance deciduous tree that is native to montane forests in southern China. It typically matures to 30-50' tall with an upright, pyramidal-conical to oblong-rounded form. Maple-like leaves (3-6" across) have three, large, pointed lobes. Leaves are ornamentally attractive, emerging burgundy in spring, maturing to deep green by summer and finally turning showy red to purple in fall. Non-showy, monoecious, yellow-green flowers appear in clusters in April-May. Female flowers give way to gum balls (spherical spiny fruiting clusters to 1.5” diameter) which usually remain on the tree through early winter, but fall to the ground during the period of December through April. Gum balls are less rigid than those of Liquidambar styraciflua (American sweet gum), and are generally considered less of a safety risk for pedestrians.

Genus name comes from the Latin words liquidus meaning liquid and ambar meaning amber as two species produce a fragrant resin.

The common name of sweet gum refers to an aromatic sweet balsam or gum that exudes from wounds to the tree.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Webworms, bagworms, caterpillars, leaf miners, borers and scale may cause problems in some areas. Canker and bleeding necrosis can be significant problems. Leaf spots and wood rot may also occur. Iron chlorosis will develop in alkaline soils.

Garden Uses

Excellent shade, lawn or park tree. Must be planted in large area with room to grow. Street tree use may be limited by concerns over fruit litter clean up and possible sidewalk damage caused by tree roots. Uncommonly planted in the U.S., and may be difficult to locate in commerce.