Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

South side of SMATE Map

A large aromatic tree with a straight trunk and 5-7 lobed finely saw-toothed maple-like leaves. In the fall it produces large brown balls with distinctive stud-like protrusions. Its leaves alternate along the twig.

The peculiar name of this tree stems from the fact that, when wounded, it exudes an aromatic balsam that (apparently - I didn't experiment) can be chewed. A chemical from its gum is used in perfumes and for other purposes. Sweetgum also is an important source of wood; if you purchase a piece of furniture made from "satin walnut," you have actually purchased a piece of sweetgum.

Sweetgums are native to southeastern United States and Mexico, where they obtain quite respectable size: to 200 ft. in height and seven ft. in diameter. More commonly they top out in the 80 to 150 ft. range, still quite enough to shade the southern approaches to SMATE. Sweetgums are relatives of the witch-hazel, which furnishes fluids of great importance in folk medicine. Native Americans chewed the bark of young sweetgums, possibly for medicinal reasons.