Trees

Liquidambar stycariflua

The Liquidambar styraciflua is one of the most beautiful trees in the world, and its autumnal color is spectacular. Their blades are dressed in their best clothes and make it impossible to ignore them. In addition, if that were not enough it is quite easy to take care of, so much so that if you live in a temperate climate with frosts it is one of the ones that I recommend the most.

But to make it very easy for you to identify and maintain it, I am going to write you its complete file. Thus, having a sweetgum will be a magnificent experience .

Origin and characteristics

Our protagonist is a deciduous tree native to the temperate areas of eastern North America, from southern New York to western and southern Missouri and eastern Texas and southern and central Florida. It is found especially in California, both in gardens and wild. He also lives in Florida, Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Its scientific name is Liquidambar styraciflua, although it is popularly known as American sweetgum or simply sweetgum.

It has a pyramidal shape, with a maximum height of 41m (although it does not normally exceed 35m), with a trunk up to 2m in diameter. The leaves are palmate and lobed, 7-25cm, and with a 6-10cm petiole. They are very reminiscent of those of maples, with the difference that those of our tree have five pointed lobes that are arranged alternately and not in opposite pairs. These turn orange, red, or purple in fall.

It is monoecious, which means that there are male and female specimens. The former produce conical flower clusters, 3 to 6cm long; the inflorescences of the latter are also greenish, although they do not have sepals or petals, but they do have 2 styles with stigmas bent outwards. The fruit is compound, heavy, dry and globose, measuring 2.5 to 4cm in diameter. Inside we will find a maximum of two winged seeds.

What are their cares?

If you dare to have a copy, we recommend providing the following care:

Location

Due to its characteristics and needs, it is important that Liquidambar styraciflua is placed outside, in full sun. Of course, if you are in the Mediterranean, it is better to put it in semi-shade since otherwise its leaves would burn in summer.

Earth

  • Garden: fertile, well drained, and slightly acidic (pH 4 to 6).
  • Pot: it is not a plant that can be kept in a pot for a long time, but if you want to enjoy it for a few years in a container, use a growing medium for acidic plants (you can get it here ), or akadama if the weather is warm.

Irrigation

It has to be frequent, especially in hot season. In general, it should be watered 4-5 times a week in summer, and every 3-4 days the rest of the year. Use rainwater, lime-free or acidified (it is achieved by adding a tablespoon of vinegar to 5l of water, or the liquid of half a lemon in 1l/ water).

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From early spring to late summer/ early fall it is advisable to pay it once a month with organic fertilizers. If the soil has a high pH (7 or more), water it twice a month with chelated iron (you can get it here ).

Multiplication

Seeds

It multiplies by seeds in autumn, since they need to be cold before germinating in spring. To do this, you have to follow this step by step:

  1. The first thing is to fill a 10.5cm pot with substrate for acidic plants.
  2. Afterwards, a maximum of 2 seeds are placed on the surface and watered.
  3. Copper or sulfur is then sprinkled on top to prevent fungus, and covered with a thin layer of substrate.
  4. It is then watered again, this time with a sprayer.
  5. Finally, the pot is placed outside, in semi-shade.

Thus, they will germinate as the weather improves. But beware, important: if the climate is warm, with very mild frosts, the ideal is to stratify them in the fridge for 3 months and then sow them in the month of March -the northern hemisphere-.

Cuttings

Another way to get a specimen of Liquidambar styraciflua is by multiplying it with cuttings towards the end of winter. For that, what you should do is take a semi-hard wood branch that measures about 40cm, impregnate its base with homemade rooters and plant it in a pot with substrate for acidic plants.

If all goes well, it will emit its own roots after 1-2 months.

Plagues and diseases

It is very resistant. In fact, the only thing that can happen is that you suffer an attack from spider mites, which cause burns on the tips of the leaves. But it’s no so bad. They can be controlled with yellow sticky traps (which you can get here ).

Rusticity

It is a tree very resistant to cold, which supports up to -17ºC. However, it cannot live in climates without frost.

What uses does it have?

Ornamental

It is a very beautiful plant, which can be had both as an isolated specimen and in groups. In addition, and as we have seen, it is very easy to take care of if the weather is good .

Medicinal

Native Americans used the gum, bark, and root as an antidiarrheal, febrifuge, and sedative. 

Other uses

The wood, being compact and fine-grained, is used for picture frames and other similar uses, but it does not tolerate the exterior.

As a curiosity, say that specimens of this species were chosen to adorn the World Trade Center Memorial in New York, as you can read here.

And with this we are done. What did you think of this tree?

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