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Gum, Red (Sweetgum)

Common Name(s): Sweetgum, Redgum, Sapgum, Satin Walnut


Not to be confused with various Australian species in the Eucalyptus genus that are also referred to as “red gum.”

Thicknesses

Tree Size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall, 2-3 ft (.6-1 m) trunk diameter

Distribution

Southeastern United States

Scientific Name

Liquidambar styraciflua

Specific Gravity: Basic 

0.46

Specific Gravity:12% MC

0.55

Janka Hardness

850 lbf (3,780 N)

Colour/Appearance

Wide sapwood is whitish to light pink or tan colour, and is sometimes referred to as “sapgum” or “sweetgum.” Heartwood is gray to reddish brown, and is commonly referred to as “redgum.” Heartwood with darker black streaks is called “figured redgum.” Quartersawn pieces have a ribbon-stripe appearance.

Grain/Texture

Grain is interlocked, with a very fine, uniform texture. Good natural luster, this wood has sometimes been called “Satin Walnut.”

Endgrain

Diffuse-porous; small pores in no specific arrangement, very numerous; exclusively solitary and/or in radial multiples of 2-3; tyloses common; growth rings indistinct; rays not visible without lens; parenchyma not visible with hand lens.

Rot Resistance

Heartwood sections are rated as moderately durable to non-durable regarding decay resistance, while the sapwood is perishable. Also susceptible to insect attack.

Workability

Generally easy to work, though planing can produce tearout due to interlocked grain. Sweetgum is known to warp and distort badly during initial drying. (After initial drying, distortion is significantly less, but the wood still experiences an appreciable amount of movement in service.) Turns, glues, stains, and finishes well. Responds moderately well to steam bending.

Odor

No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity

Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Sweetgum has been reported to cause skin irritation.

Pricing/Availability

Because the sapwood is so wide, only older mature trees will yield the darker Redgum heartwood lumber. Sapgum is widely available at low cost, while Redgum is more uncommon, and prices can be in the mid range for a domestic hardwood, with prices for figured and/or quartersawn pieces costing more.

Sustainability

This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.
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