The leaves of the Sweetgum are simple (no leaflets), alternately arranged on the stem, and lobed. The Sweetgum has five (or occasionally seven) lobes, each with a tapered tip and shallowly serrated margin. The lobes are well divided and form a flattened star shape. The leaves are often glossy and dark green.
Twig and Bud Identification
The twig is light brown with pale ridges and lenticels (pores). The terminal bud of the Sweetgum is large, dark red-brown, ovoid, and with paired valve-like scales. Both the flowers and leaves emerge from the same bud.
The Sweetgum has light gray bark with thick raised vertical ridges that form deep furrows. When young, the bark is smooth and slightly mottled.
The fruit of the Sweetgum is a globular cluster of pointed capsules on a long peduncle; the points are actually the styles of each seed’s ovary. The cluster turns brown when mature, falls from the tree, and releases its seeds. The fruits mature in the fall.
The flowers of the Sweetgum are monoecious. The staminate (male) flowers are quite small and in reddish-green globular clusters that sit on a thick peduncle. The pistillate (female) flowers are solitary and hang below the staminate flowers. The flowers bloom in spring.
‘Slender Silhouette’ Identification
The ‘Slender Silhouette’ cultivar is tall and columnar, unlike wild Sweetgums. The cultivar will only reach 60′ in height, unlike the wild Sweetgum which can reach 150′ at its tallest.