Liquidambar styraciflua - American Sweetgum, redgum is a medium-sized to large tree, growing to 20-35 m (exceptionally 41 m) tall, with a trunk up to 2 m diameter. The leaves are palmately lobed, 7-19 cm (rarely to 25 cm) long and broad and with a 6-10 cm petiole, looking somewhat similar to those of some maples.
They have five sharply-pointed lobes, but are easily distinguished from maples in being arranged alternately, not in opposite pairs. They are a rich dark green and glossy, and in most cases turn brilliant orange, red and purple colors in the autumn. A small percentage of trees are evergreen or semi-evergreen, with negligible fall color. The roots are fibrous; juices are balsamic.
The starry five-pointed leaves of the Liquidambar suggest the Sugar Maple, and its fruit balls as they hang upon their long stems resemble those of the Buttonwood. The distinguishing mark of the tree, however, is the peculiar appearance of its small branches and twigs. The bark attaches itself to these in plates edgewise instead of laterally, and a piece of the leafless branch with the aid of a little imagination readily takes on a reptilian form; indeed, the tree is sometimes called Alligator-wood.
The male and female inflorescences are on different branches of the same tree. The fruit, popularly nick-named a "monkey ball", "bir ball, "gum ball" or "sticker ball", is a hard, dry, globose, compound fruit 2.5-4 cm in diameter and composed of numerous (20-50) capsules. Each capsule has a pair of terminal spikes, and contains one to two small seeds.
The autumnal coloring is not simply a flame, it is a conflagration; in reds and yellows it equals the maples, and in addition it has the dark purples and smoky browns of the ash.
Size: from 150 - 175 cm
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