Liquidambar styraciflua

Sweetgum Tree

Sweetgum Tree   (photo: Famartin)

The Sweetgum is a large deciduous hardwood tree, which can grow to over 100 feet in height and 3 to 5 feet in diameter. [2]   Sweetgum is one of the most common hardwoods in the southeastern United States.  The tree is a symmetrical shape and crowns into an egg shape when the branches get too heavy after its first two years of cultivation. These trees may live to be 400 yearsold .[3]

It’s easy to tell a Sweetgum because most of the year the ground will be covered with spiny little balls (the fruit) and it hurts to step on them barefooted.  These seeds are are eaten by Goldfinches, Purple Finches, squirrels, and chipmunks.  Fallen, opened fruits  have been popularly nicknamed “burr (or bir) balls”, “gum balls”, “space bugs”, “monkey balls”, “bommyknockers” or “sticker balls”. [3]

Sweetgum Fruit

Sweetgum fruit and seeds   (photo: Roger Culos)

Identification and Description

Adapted to Georgia hardiness zones:     6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b.    Atlanta is zone 7b    [1]

For more photos and identification help, we recommend the UGA Extension site: Native Plants for Georgia Part I: Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines (B 987).

Champion Sweetgum Trees in Atlanta and Georgia


Atlanta Champion Trees – full list
Georgia Champion Trees – full list
Intown Hawk – Condensed Atlanta and Georgia List

References and Additional Information

[1]  UGA Extension: Native Plants for Georgia Part I: Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines (B 987) – Sweetgum
[2]  USDA – NRCS: Sweetgum
[3]  Wikipedia: Liquidambar styraciflua