Friday, May 28, 2010

Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Liquidambar styraciflua is known by the common names, Sweetgum, Redgum, or Starleaf-Gum. It's a tree that grows to 50 to 60 feet around here. Young trees don't bloom; by the time the trees bloom, they are generally so tall that the lowest flowers I've seen previously are 10 to 12 feet above the ground. Male and female flowers are separate. Usually, I only seem male flower spikes that have fallen on the trail. While the lake level at Fort Yargo State Park was low, I happened upon a Sweetgum that had a few blooms about 7 to 8 feet above the beach. It took a bit of effort to photograph the flowers but it was a unique opportunity to observe them.

Leaves emerge before the flowers.

The leaves fully opened

The flowers. The male flower is the spike in the foreground. A female flower is suspended from the slender stalk immediately to the left of the stalk of the male flower.

A close-up of a male flower. Each cluster is composed of multiple flowerlets

A female flower; the flowerlets are opening.

Pollination is complete. The fruit is beginning to develop. Unfortunately, the lake level had risen at this point; I could not longer access the beach and this tree to follow the development of the fruit.

A seed pod from last year still hangs from a branch.

Liquidambar styraciflua
(Sweetgum) is native to the United States. Its range extends from New York-Connecticut in line across the country to Texas and south to Florida. In our area it is one of the most common deciduous trees.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Distribution Map:

- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database: Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweetgum)

University of North Carolina Herbarium: Liquidambar styraciflua

Identification resources:
- Southeastern Flora: Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Native & Naturalized Plants of Georgia and the Carolinas: Liquidambar styraciflua

Related posts:

- 2010: Year Of The Wildflower

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