This month, our tree specialists recommend the distinctive Liquidambar styraciflua for its fantastic autumn colour.
Where does it grow?
Liquidambar styraciflua is a large deciduous tree native to the warmer climate of the eastern United States and Mexico. It’s also successfully cultivated in the United Kingdom and was first introduced into Europe in the 1680s by missionary collector, John Banister, and was planted in Fulham Palace Gardens in London.
Why is is cultivated?
Liquidambar styraciflua was traditionally cultivated for its resin, or sweet gum as it is nicknamed, which is secreted from the tree if it is wounded. The resin can be chewed like chewing gum and is also used in incense and perfumes. It’s timber is used to make furniture and is popular for its close grain and red hue.
What conditions does it prefer?
This specimen grows most successfully in sunny spots and thrives in well drained, moist, neutral to acidic loam or clay soils.
What does it look like up close?
Liquidambar styraciflua is a large, straight-trunked deciduous tree, reaching over 12 metres tall at maturity. It has a symmetrical appearance and a heavy crown. It has grey-coloured, fissured bark with a cork-like texture. Between March and May the tree produces small flowers with rusty red hairy spikes and grows hard, dry, spherical fruit in clusters. The tree features glossy, five pointed leaves which turn a vibrant red in autumn.
Any distinctive features?
“The Liquidambar’s most distinctive feature is its glorious autumn colour,” Deric Newman, sales manager at Glendale Civic Trees, explains: “There are a number of cultivars which accentuate the autumn colour palette, and it was one of these, Liquidambar styraciflua Worplesden, which first attracted me to the species. There was a wonderful specimen outside my room at college, in the village of Worplesden, Surrey. The tree displays a stunning mix of yellow, orange, red, gold and even purple hues throughout the autumn and early winter months.
“It was also one of the first trees that I moved by myself. It is a beautiful tree, full of memories and a great way to say goodbye to the summer, as we look to the forthcoming winter months.”
Deric continues: “Liquidambar styraciflua grows quite slowly but can reach up to 45 metres tall so it’s not recommended for a small garden. It works really well as a feature tree or to lend colour and texture to an avenue or arboretum.
“It has crown spread of around eight metres making it an ideal tree for generating shade or as a windbreak in larger gardens. Specimens grown in full sunlight in rich, damp soil will colour the best.”
To find out more about the tree of the month and if it will work well in your project contact our team: 0208 950 4491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.