Liquidambar styraciflua

28 May

Liquidambar styraciflua (03/07/2015, Walworth, London)

Liquidambar styraciflua (03/07/2015, Walworth, London)

Position: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Moist but well drained.

Flowering period: Spring

Eventual Height: 25m

Eventual Spread: 12m

Hardiness: USDA Zone 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b

Family: Altingiaceae

Liquidambar styraciflua autumn (01/11/2011, London)

Liquidambar styraciflua autumn (01/11/2011, London)

Liquidambar styraciflua is a deciduous tree with a broadly conical habit. It has interesting ‘winged’ shoots, which persist on the smaller twigs giving them a very distinctive appearance. It foliage is palmate, similar to that of a Maple, with five or seven lobes and a glossy mid-green in colour becoming orange then red and purple in autumn. The leaves will also give off a sweet scent when crushed. This tree is monoecious and its green inflorescence is yellow in spring, held separately on male and female branches and can be intermittent in Britain.  The fruit is spiky, green and globose.

Liquidambar styraciflua, commonly known as Sweetgum, is Native to North America and Mexico. Liquidambar genus was first described by Spanish naturalist Hernandez but was introduced to Britain by the missionary plant hunter John Bannister in 1681. The common name was give to it because when the bark is cut a sweet liquid is exuded, this liquid has been used in perfume

Liquidambar styraciflua Leaf (03/07/2015, Walworth, London)

Liquidambar styraciflua Leaf (03/07/2015, Walworth, London)

The etymological root of the binomial name Liquidambar was given to it by Hernandez in reference to its aromatic gum, which he described as ‘liquid amber’. Styraciflua is derived from the Latin storax meaning ‘sweet gum’ and flua meaning ‘flowing’ also in reference to its aromatic gum.

The landscape architect may find Liquidambar styraciflua useful as a beautiful specimen tree providing beautiful autumn colour. This tree is a good street tree due to its upright habit and tolerance of urban pollution.

Liquidambar styraciflua autumn leaf (01/11/2011, London)

Liquidambar styraciflua autumn leaf (01/11/2011, London)

Popular cultivars of this plant include Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Lane Roberts’ which has deep green foliage that turns a blackened crimson in autumn and styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’ whose five lobed foliage turns a deep orange and yellow in autumn.

Liquidambar styraciflua prefers acidic or neutral soils. It tolerates clay, loam or sand based soils. It may be placed in a sheltered or exposed location facing any aspect.

Ecologically,  Liquidambar styraciflua will cater for the larvae of some species of Lepidoptera. Birds and other animals will occasionally inhabit its canopy.

Liquidambar styraciflua Bark (15/08/2015, Kew Gardens, London)

Liquidambar styraciflua Bark (15/08/2015, Kew Gardens, London)

The Royal Horticultural Society have given the cultivars Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’ and Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Lane Roberts’ their prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

Liquidambar styraciflua requires little maintenance.  Removal of dead and damaged material should be carried out in late autumn or winter.

DAVIS Landscape Architecture

Landscape Architecture

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