It produces small, insignificant green flowers in spring, these may be followed by burr-like fruits. The cone-shaped crown becomes rounded as the tree matures. Older trees have attractive, cork-like bark.
Sweet gum trees are native to North America, where they’re often found growing in swampy regions. A Spanish naturalist “discovered” sweet gum trees in the early 16th century and described their aromatic gum as “liquid amber” – hence the Latin name, Liquidambar styraciflua.
As a sweet gum can eventually reach 25m tall and 8m wide, its best grown in a large garden, although more slender and compact varieties are available. Grow as a standalone tree in a lawn so its vibrant autumn colours can be appreciated.
For the best autumn colour, grow Liquidambar in full sun, in rich, damp soil. Sweet gum does not grow well on alkaline soil but does well on acid soil.