Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Liquidambar styraciflua


SPECIES: Liquidambar styraciflua
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Coladonato, Milo. 1992. Liquidambar styraciflua. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : LIQSTY SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : LIST2 COMMON NAMES : sweetgum redgum sapgum star-leaf gum blisted satin-walnut white gum alligator-tree opossum-tree gum-wood copalm balsam TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for sweetgum is Liquidambar styraciflua L. [30]. Two forms of sweetgum are recognized in horticulture. The round-lobed American sweetgum, L. styraciflua forma rotundiloba Rehd., has three to five short, rounded lobes on the leaves. Weeping American sweetgum, L. styraciflua forma pendula Rehd., has pendulous branches forming an almost columnar head [44,45]. There are no recognized subspecies or varieties. LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Liquidambar styraciflua
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Sweetgum grows from Connecticut southward throughout the East to central Florida and eastern Texas. It is found as far west as Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma and as far north as southern Illinois. It also grows in scattered locations in northeastern and central Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua [14,24,42]. It is cultivated in Hawaii [50]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak - pine FRES15 Oak - hickory FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress STATES : AL AR DE FL GA HI IL IN KY LA MD MS NJ OH OK PA SC TN TX VA WV MEXICO BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest K100 Oak - hickory forest K102 Beech - maple forest K103 Mixed mesophytic forest K104 Appalachian oak forest SAF COVER TYPES : 44 Chestnut oak 51 White pine - chestnut oak 52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak 57 Yellow-poplar 61 River birch - sycamore 62 Silver maple - American elm 64 Sassafras - persimmon 65 Pin oak - sweetgum 70 Longleaf pine 74 Cabbage palmetto 75 Shortleaf pine 76 Shortleaf pine - oak 78 Virginia pine - oak 79 Virginia pine 80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine 81 Loblolly pine 82 Loblolly pine - hardwood 83 Longleaf pine - slash pine 84 Slash pine 87 Sweetgum - yellow-poplar 88 Willow oak - water oak - diamondleaf oak 89 Live oak 91 Swamp chestnut - oak - cherrybark oak 92 Sweetgum - willow oak 93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash 94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm 96 Overcup oak - water hickory 98 Pond pine 102 Baldcypress - tupelo 103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo 104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay 110 Black oak SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Liquidambar styraciflua
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Sweetgum is primarily used for lumber, veneer, and plywood. The lumber is used to make boxes, crates, furniture, interior trim, and millwork. The veneer is used primarily for crates, baskets, and interior woodwork. Sweetgum is also used for crossties and fuel, and small amounts go into fencing, excelsior, and pulpwood [37,42]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Sweetgum has moderate value as a winter browse [5]. In the Oconee National Forest of Georgia, sweetgum was lightly to moderately browsed by white-tailed deer during the fall and winter [19]. The seeds are eaten by birds, squirrels, and chipmunks [33]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Sweetgum is relatively high in protein and caloric content. Mean nutrient values for sweetgum on unburned plots on the Siecke State Forest, Texas, varied seasonally as follows [27]: crude N-free protein fat fiber extract ash phosphorus calcium Spring 10.76 2.78 9.08 58.49 3.84 6.13 0.63 Summer 7.00 2.78 12.09 59.39 3.73 0.07 0.86 Fall 5.74 3.09 11.08 59.72 5.33 0.06 1.28 Winter 4.42 2.51 20.23 54.64 3.21 0.06 1.70 COVER VALUE : Sweetgum snags are used as breeding sites for a variety of birds and mammals [13]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Sweetgum stem cuttings have been successfully planted for streambank protection and reclamation of sites disturbed by coal strip mining [29,46]. Sweetgum growth and survival was good when planted on favorable sites but decreased when seedlings were planted concurrently with ground cover or in previously established cover of grasses and legumes on mined sites in southeastern Indiana [3,8]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Medicinally, sweetgum is known as "copalm balsam" and the resinous gum is used extensively in Mexico and Europe as a substitute for storax. Various ointments and syrups are prepared from the resinous gum and are used in the treatment of dysentery and diarrhea. The gum is sometimes chewed by children, and it is also used as a perfuming agent in soap [45]. The beautiful red and yellow color variations of sweetgum's autumn foliage make it highly prized as an ornamental [33,45]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Sweetgum's ability to sprout quickly and persistently makes it one of the most serious competitors of pine seedlings in southeastern forests. Silvicultural practices have called for the control of sweetgum in areas where it competes heavily with pine seedlings [49]. Basal applications of Garlon 4 top-killed 81 percent of 2 inch (5 cm) d.b.h or smaller stems [35,36].


SPECIES: Liquidambar styraciflua
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Sweetgum is a large, native, long-lived, deciduous tree that reaches heights of 50 to 150 feet (15-45 m) at maturity [6,14]. It is easily recognizable by the long-petioled, star-shaped leaves which have five long-pointed, saw-toothed lobes. The brown bark is deeply furrowed into narrow scaley plates or ridges. Young sweetgum trees have long conical crowns, while mature trees have crowns that are round and spreading. Sweetgum is monoecious with the male flowers in several clusters and the female flowers hanging at the end of the same stalk. The ball-shaped fruits contain many individual seed-bearing sections, and persist throughout the winter [16,18]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Seed production and dissemination: Sweetgum produces an abundance of lightweight seed. The tree begins to produce seed when 20 to 30 years old, and crops remain abundant for 150 years. Fair seed crops are produced each year, with bumper crops every 2 to 3 years [2,24]. Under conditions of full sunlight and rich moist soil, each fruit may average as many as 50 sound seeds. Seed is primarily dispersed by wind; the maximum dispersal distance recorded was 600 feet (183 m) but ordinarily 96 percent of the seed fall within 200 feet (61 m) of the point of release [24,38]. Seedling development: Sod is not a serious hindrance to seed germination; however, when additional sweetgum production is desired in partially cutover stands, exposed mineral soil and abundant direct sunlight are necessary [4,22]. Root development varies with the growing site. A deep taproot and numerous horizontal rootlets usually develop early, but in wet areas the root system is shallow and wide spreading, with little or no taproot [25,39]. On an abandoned field adjacent to a swamp in Maryland, 5-year-old seedlings averaged 8.7 feet (2.6 m) in height [24]. On favorable sites in the lower Mississippi Valley, seedlings grow as much as 2 feet (0.6 m) during the first year [24,49]. Vegetative reproduction: Sweetgum is capable of sprouting until it is approximately 50 years old. Although sweetgum seedlings reach a height of 4.5 feet (1.4 m) in 3 to 5 years, sprouts often reach this height in one growing season. Ten-year old sprouts frequently have the same size and appearance as 18- to 20-year-old seedlings in the same stand [23,49]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Sweetgum is very tolerant of different soils and sites but grows best on the rich, moist, alluvial clay and loamy soils of river bottoms [28]. Throughout the Piedmont Plateau, sweetgum shows good growth on river and stream bottoms and shows considerable potential on many upland sites [24,34]. Common tree associates of sweetgum include spruce pine (Pinus glabra), Virginia pine (P. virginiana), red maple (Acer rubrum), box elder (A. negundo), pignut, shellbark, shagbark, and mockernut hickories (Carya glabra, C. laciniosa, C. ovata, C. tomentosa), and sugarberry (Celtis laevigata). Common understory associates include dogwood (Cornus spp.), alder (Alnus spp.), and eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) [1,10,24]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Sweetgum is classified as shade intolerant [7]. In pure stands on bottomland sites, young sweetgum is able to endure some shade and crowding. With increase in age the tree becomes less tolerant of competition. Following natural decrease in the canopy, enough sunlight reaches the ground to permit an understory stand to develop [12,24]. Although sweetgum is an early invader, it seldom becomes a dominant species [20,31]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Sweetgum flowers appear from March to May, depending on latitude and weather. The fruit ripens from September to November; the fruit often persists through the entire winter [6,24].


SPECIES: Liquidambar styraciflua
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Fire is one of the major agents of damage to sweetgum. Its relatively thin bark make it highly susceptible to fire [21]. Following top-kill by fire, sweetgum sprouts from the stump or root crown [41,48]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex off-site colonizer; seed carried by wind; postfire years 1 and 2


SPECIES: Liquidambar styraciflua
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fire typically top-kills sweetgum. Hot summer fires may deplete carbohydrate reserves and eventually kill the tree [41,48]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : Fire scars on living trees provide entry points for insects and diseases. As long as the sapwood is not killed by fire, basal wounds are often covered with a gum exudation that protects them. After repeated fires, however, a tree is apt to have some sapwood killed and fungi and insects may become established [24,47]. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Sweetgum generally sprouts prolifically when top-killed by fire. Repeated annual summer burns, however, will eventually deplete carbohydrate reserves and kill the plant [41,48]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Fire has been demonstrated to be a good management tool for controlling sweetgum. In the Coastal Plain of South Carolina, five consecutive summer fires killed 85 percent or more of the root stalks of sweetgum. Winter fires did not kill appreciable numbers of root stalks but did top-kill most sweetgum 2 inches (5 cm) or less d.b.h. [11].


SPECIES: Liquidambar styraciflua
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