Liquidambar, or Sweet Gum as it is commonly known is a small genus of large trees popular for their vibrant autumn foliage. The leaves are similar in shape to maple trees and have a pleasant aroma, especially when crushed. Liquidambar bark is grey with vertical grooves and the flowers are small but appear in dense clusters. Liquidambar trees produce fruits called ‘gumballs’ which are woody balls with spikes containing seeds. It is thought the fruits have spikes so to attach themselves to the fur of small animals to help in dispersing the seeds.
The common name Sweet Gum comes from the thick sap it produces. Named by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 from the Latin liquidus meaning fluid and the Arabic ambar in reference to the sap which oozes from the bark when wounded. Liquidambar trees were first introduced to the UK by John Bannister, a U.S botanist, in 1681. Bannister was employed by Henry Compton the Bishop of London who planted the trees in the Fulham Palace gardens. However, the Spanish naturalist Hernandez was the first European to discover the tree in the early 16th century.
Sweet Gum trees have been used in cultivation and different cultures for many years. Some of its uses include:
Liquidambar trees are popularly planted for their brilliant autumn colour, for our full range of ornamental trees for autumn colour, click here.