Sweetgum is a monoecious tree. It contains individual male and female flowers on the same individual tree. Male flowers pollinate female flowers. The flowers are unisexual and greenish in color.
The distinctive compound fruit is hard, dry, and globose, 25–40 mm (1–1+1⁄2 in) in diameter, composed of numerous (40–60) capsules. Each capsule, containing one to two small seeds, has a pair of terminal spikes (for a total of 80–120 spikes). When the fruit opens and the seeds are released, each capsule is associated with a small hole (40–60 of these) in the compound fruit.
Fallen, spiky, opened fruits are often abundant beneath the trees; these have been popularly nicknamed "burr (or bir) balls", or "gum balls"
Up to 45 metres (150 feet) in length
Up to 400 years
Native to warm temperate areas of eastern North America and tropical montane regions of Mexico and Central America. Sweetgum is one of the main valuable forest trees in the southeastern United States, and is a popular ornamental tree in temperate climates.
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Images by and (c)2016 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) - Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47846235
Photo: JLPC / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30077843
Shane Vaughn - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6315721
Jim Evans - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73892869