Biology

Liquidambar styraciflua is a medium sized tree that grows to a maximum height of 40m, though more commonly 30m.

The species is easily identifiable by a number of characters.

Leaf shape:

  • leaves are alternately arranged and up to 10cm across with 5–7 deep lobes lending a star-like appearance to them
  • they turn deep purple, red and yellow in the autumn, which make the tree a favourite for ornamental planting
  • the species is generally considered to be deciduous although occasionally, particularly in the southern part of its range, it may be semi-evergreen with little leaf fall

Fruit:

  • the prickly fruits are round in shape and often stay on the tree for some time

Bark:

  • the tree has grey-brown fissured bark and stout brown twigs, often with cork-like wings

The species is monoecious - male and female flowers are found separately on the same tree. The flowers however, are relatively inconspicuous.

Liquidambar is sometimes confused with maples and plane trees. However, it can be distinguished from the maple by its leaves that are opposite rather than alternate. It can be distinguished from the plane tree by having fruits held singly rather than in bunches, and by the lack of peeling bark.

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