The Sweetgum, or Hamamelidaceae, is commonly found in swamps and near ponds and streams. They like acidic soils and are second in production only to oaks among the hardwood trees. Sweetgum “balls” are falling to the ground all over the Bluegrass Region. The Sweetgum has also been called the redgum, star-leaved gum, alligator-wood, and gumtree.
The wood of a Sweetgum is used as flooring, furniture, veneers, home interiors, and other lumber applications. Pioneers once peeled the bark and scraped the resin-like solid to produce chewing gum and slivered the wood to make baskets.
Sweetgum is one of my favorite landscape trees because hit has beautiful fall color and makes a great shade tree. They are easily recognized by its star-shaped leaves and little porcupine ball-like fruit.
Sweetgum is a large tree and can reach from 80 feet to 150 feet in height. The deciduous leaves are alternately arranged and star-shaped with 5 to 7 deeply palmate, pointed lobes. Each leaf is a shiny dark green above and paler below with small hairs. In autumn, the leaves turn red, orange, yellow, and purple.