ALTINGIACEAE/Sweetgum Family

This is a small family of tress with approximately 18 members worldwide and only one in North American, Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweetgum). Growing up in the south this tree seemed to be everywhere, but surprisingly, they are considered a rare naturally occurring plant in Pennsylvania. In Southeastern Pennsylvania they are commonly planted in urban areas. I have also seen this tree used in ecological restoration projects in Southeastern Pennsylvania, which seems like a strange selection considering their rarity in the region.

I am not sure that I have seen a naturally occurring Sweetgum in Pennsylvania. I have found many saplings growing in urban wood lots, so they can reproduce on there own here in Chester County. In a recent trip up US Route 1, I noticed as I rode through Maryland that Sweetgum trees were very common. As I approached the Pennsylvania boarder they abruptly disappeared. I would think some exploring of woodlands along the boarder would produce a few of these here and there. Most records that I can find are clustered around the Delaware River from Delaware to Bucks  County. 


Pennsylvania species of Altingiaceae as found in Rhodes and Block (2007).

C = recorded in Chester County; Bold = in photo gallery to the right

  • Liquidambar styraciflua, Sweetgum, C