Sweet gum trees are prized for their vibrant fall color. They have a pyramid-shaped crown of foliage, and distinctive trunks that resemble an alligator hide. The park’s cultivar is the ‘Slender Silhouette’, it’s named for its upright and narrow form. In spring, the Sweet gum provides nectar for the ruby-throated hummingbird and over 30 species of butterflies and moths. Their star-shaped leaves turn glorious shades of yellow, orange, and red in the autumn.
The common name Sweet gum refers to its contrast with the bitter sap of the Black gum tree, a distant relative that grows in the same regions. The earliest known record of the tree was published by the Spanish naturalist Francisco Hernández in 1615. However, its amber resin was referred to in 1517, by Juan de Grijalva. De Grijalva wrote of trading with the Mayan Indians, who gave him reeds filled with dried herbs and the Sweet gum’s amber which, when burned, gave off a fragrant smoke.