Sweetgum

Liquidambar styraciflua

There is only one sweetgum in the Park, a beautiful tree in the southeast triangle. The Wikipedia entry is here.
The sweetgum is a deciduous tree native to warm temperate areas of eastern North America.
Sweetgum in the southeast triangle.
Sweetgum factoids:
  • It is easily recognized by its five-pointed leaves and its spiked spherical seed pods lying underneath its canopy.
  • It is named for the fragrant resin, or gum, which the tree exudes.
  • The glossy, leathery, dark green leaves turn bright orange and purple in autumn.
  • Sweetgums grow extensively in the southeast United States and are used for furniture and plywood
Distinctive five-pointed leaves
Spiky seed pods of sweetgum, one removed from the tree at left and a dry one on the ground that has had its seeds picked out by birds.
George Washington (on quarter) donated 13 sweetgum seeds to Alexander Hamilton to line the latter's estate in upper Manhattan. Hamilton wanted to make the sweetgum our national tree.
Sweetgum in early April
The new buds are about to blossom amidst some old fruit from last year. The magnolia-like buds will become the male flowers.
Sweetgum branch fallen onto a bench on April 16
There are separate male and female flowers on sweetgums (see discussion on monoecious versus dioecious on the Red Maple page here). The male flowers are tiny, yellow, and grow in cone like clumps on thick peduncles (like stems) projecting upwards from the leaves. The female flowers are only slightly larger, and grow in spherical clumps hanging below the leaves. Each of these female flowers will generate a seed, and the spherical clump will become the spiky seed pod in the fall.

Matthias Baldwin Park 

423 N 19th St 

Philadelphia, PA 19130

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