Featured Species: Sweet Gum

A sweet gum is a deciduous tree that ranges in height from around 50 to 100 feet and has a thin oval canopy with a spread of 40 to 60 feet. They are medium-sized, winter trees home to the eastern and south-central United States. You can see them placed from the south into Mexico and Central America. Their range in the United States is anywhere from New Jersey, south-eastern Connecticut, southeastern Pennsylvania, south to Florida, and east Texas.

They will typically grow in low lying country areas and valleys, and you most likely won’t find these in the Appalachian Mountains. Some species have been known to grow over 120 feet tall, but this is very uncommon. The negative side of growing a sweetgum tree is having to deal with the seed pods. You have probably heard little kids call them gumballs or stickerballs, and it is very rare to find a child with a sweetgum growing nearby that hasn’t had a rough experience with them. As you grow up you will realize how much of a pain they are. They can roll underfoot and cause you to fall, especially on paved places.

Even though sweetgum trees are mainly planted as sidewalk or street trees, their roots are not deep and can lift up on sidewalks and curbs. If you are looking to plant a sweetgum, keep it at least 10 feet from pavements and concrete to bypass harm. When gumballs fall they can be very hazardous on pavements which is yet another reason to keep them away from sidewalks and driveways. Sweetgums need a place in full sun or some shade. They grow in pretty much any soil, whether it be mostly sand or clay.

They have a lot of shallow roots, but they also have some deep roots that need moist, thick soil. Once the tree is planted, sweetgums are very low maintenance. It is not necessary that you fertilize them every year, but they like some general purpose fertilizer or compost every couple years. The trees are able to tolerate droughts and do not need to be watered once they are grown.