I don’t know about you, but this autumn, though it has been one of beautiful and long lasting foliage, one tree has stood out among all the others…
The American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua L) goes by many names: Sweetgum, redgum, sapgum, star leaf-gum, bilsted.
As it is found in the Eastern United States from Connecticut south to Central America, it’s likely you’ve encountered this tree before and probably remember it’s unique seed pods - round and woody with spiney tips and scattered all over.
The leaves are palmately lobed with five to seven points resembling a star.
In the autumn the leaves turn a brilliant range of color from pale yellow through bright orange all the way to a deep burgundy or purple. The leaves are very sensitive to frost so if it frosts before changing, they turn directly brown.
Native Americans used parts of this tree, especially the gum, bark, and root, for antidiarrheal uses, dermatological aid, gynecological aid, sedative, and as a fever reducer.
A balsamic oleo-resin is formed when the inner bark of the tree becomes wounded or gashed, called American styrax. This historically has been chewed as a sweet, natural gum, but has found other uses in soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, adhesives, lacquers, and incense.
The wood is used for lumber, veneer, and plywood and is often used for cabinets, furniture, barrels, baskets, and interior woodwork.
Seeds are a food source for birds, squirrels, and chipmunks .
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.