Friday, September 4, 2009

Sweet Gum

"The autumnal coloring is not simply a flame, it is a conflagration." Harriet Louise Keeler in Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them, 1900

At first glance, I thought this was a type of maple.

I had noticed a lot of woody seed balls on the ground, though, and when I saw an unripe fruit on the tree, I realized it was something completely different.

The sweet gum, Liquidambar styraciflua, gets its name from its thick, balsamic sap. But it's best known for its stunning autumn foliage. The leaves will turn every shade, from orange to red to purple. Its leaf shape does lead to confusion with maple. One easy way to distinguish between the two is to check the leaf positioning. Maple leaves are in opposite pairs (right across from each other) while sweet gum leaves are alternately positioned (staggered).

No comments:

Post a Comment