Sweetgum colors with minimal chill.

The excellent and remarkably brilliant shades of yellow, orange, red and burgundy of the foliage in autumn suggest that sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua, is from New England. However, it is native between New Jersey, Florida and the eastern edge of Texas, as well as isolated forests of Central America. It actually prefers mild climates to where winters are too cold. Mature trees are generally columnar (relatively narrow) and less than fifty feet tall where well exposed, but can get more than twice as tall to compete in forests.

Unfortunately, mature sweetgum trees can be somewhat problematic in urban gardens. Limbs are often weak enough to break in wind, or if they get too heavy from the weight of their own foliage. Also, the abundant round seed pods are outfitted with nasty spikes, like little maces almost two inches wide. They are painful to step on, and can actually be quite hazardous.

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