American Sweet Gum Trees | Liquidambar styraciflua | Red Gum
Liquidambar styraciflua | Sweet Gum Tree
Liquidambar styraciflua is quite large, spreading tree grown for its wonderfully coloured autumn foliage. It likes sunny, moist, acidic sites in the South of Britain.
It can be grown as a screening tree up to about 25 metres high.
Liquidambar styraciflua saplings are only delivered bareroot, during winter (Nov-March).
All of our young trees and shrubs are measured by their height in centimetres above the ground
General description of Sweet Gum Trees:
Common Names: Alligator Tree, Sweet Gum
One of autumn's highlights, Liquidambar styraciflua looks gorgeous at any time of year. The rich brown young bark is unusually textured with corky scales and becomes ridged as it ages, giving it the common name Alligator Tree. Its other name, Sweet Gum, refers to the resin that is emitted when the tree is damaged, which is called styrax and has a pleasant odour.
The star shaped foliage is a lush, glossy green in summer but the real surprise comes in autumn, when a stunning range of glowing reds and oranges engulfs the tree - it gets another name, the Red Gum tree, from this display. If you collect some fallen leaves, you will notice that they have kept the sweet aroma of the gum and a bundle of them in the garden shed will smell good for several weeks.
Liquidambar styraciflua has very distinctive flowers in April-May, with yellow-green piles of male buds from which dangle whitish female flowers - these do tend to be hidden by the emerging leaves, however, so you may appreciate them best as cuttings in a vase. The female part matures into an outlandish seed ball that is covered in inward curling spines - you may well have seen them used in an ornamental pot-pourri. These decorate the tree well into winter and some birds will benefit from the seeds, if they can work out how to get at them. Top Tip: If you are having trouble with dogs and cats invading your flower beds, try covering them with a mulch of these prickly seed cases. Sweet Gum Trees can grow to be quite big and need some space, though they won't reach their full size in the British climate.
Note: When large these trees hate having their roots disturbed. It is always best to plant any type of tree as soon as possible after receiving them and this is especially true of Liquidambar. Sit the roots in some water for half an hour before planting and then get it in the ground without delay. If it doesn't rain hard, aim to give the ground around it a thorough soaking once a week.
History & uses of Sweet Gum Tree:
The tree's heartwood is called satin walnut; it can be given an excellent polish and because it is also quite light, it is often used for making furniture. In Britain, a Sweet Gum Tree should not grow more than about 30 metres, 100 feet