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Liquidambar styraciflua - L.

Common Name Sweet Gum, Red Gum, American Sweet Gum, Red Sweet Gum,
Family Hamamelidaceae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Swampy woods which are often inundated annually[43] and on rich bottom lands[82].
Range Eastern N. America - Connecticut to Florida, west to Texas and Illinois.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Liquidambar styraciflua Sweet Gum, Red Gum, American Sweet Gum, Red Sweet Gum,
Liquidambar styraciflua Sweet Gum, Red Gum, American Sweet Gum, Red Sweet Gum,


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Bloom Color: Green, Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Oval, Pyramidal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Liquidambar styraciflua is a deciduous Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen from October to November. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Bees.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



Woodland Garden Canopy;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts:
Edible Uses: Gum

A chewing gum and a stabilizer for cakes etc is obtained from the resin[102, 105, 149, 159]. It can also be chewed to sweeten the breath[183].


Medicinal Uses

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Antiseptic  Astringent  Carminative  Diuretic  Expectorant  Parasiticide  Poultice  Salve  
Sedative  Stimulant  Vulnerary

A resin obtained from the trunk of the tree (see 'Uses notes' below) is antiseptic, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, parasiticide, poultice, salve, sedative, stimulant, vulnerary[21, 46, 57, 61, 149, 171, 213, 218, 222, 238]. It is chewed in the treatment of sore throats, coughs, asthma, cystitis, dysentery etc[222, 238, 257]. Externally, it is applied to sores, wounds, piles, ringworm, scabies etc[222, 238]. The resin is an ingredient of 'Friar's Balsam', a commercial preparation based on Styrax benzoin that is used to treat colds and skin problems[238]. The mildly astringent inner bark is used in the treatment of diarrhoea and childhood cholera[222].


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Other Uses

Adhesive  Gum  Incense  Parasiticide  Resin  Teeth  Wood

The aromatic resin 'Storax' is obtained from the trunk of this tree[46, 57, 61, 64]. It forms in cavities of the bark and also exudes naturally. It is harvested in autumn[181, 238]. Production can be stimulated by beating the trunk in the spring[171, 238]. The resin has a wide range of uses including medicinal, incense, perfumery, soap and as an adhesive[149]. It is also chewed and used as a tooth cleaner[183]. Wood - heavy, fairly hard, fine-grained, not strong, light, tough, resilient. It weighs about 37lb per cubic foot[227]. The wood takes a high polish and can be stained then used as a cherry, mahogany or walnut substitute[171]. It is also used for furniture, flooring, fruit dishes, veneer etc[46, 61, 82, 149, 227].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Scented Plants


Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Aggressive surface roots possible, Specimen, Street tree. Prefers a moist but not swampy loam in a sunny sheltered position[11, 200]. Succeeds in light shade[188]. Prefers a neutral to acid soil[130]. Plants grow poorly in shallow soils overlying chalk[188]. Young plants are susceptible to damage from late frosts. A highly ornamental plant, especially in its autumn foliage[1, 227], it grows well in Cornwall[59] and S. England but does not do well in the north[98]. A fast-growing and long lived tree, it is fairly free from pests and diseases and has the potential to be a re-afforestation tree in cutover lands[227]. Trees commence flowering when about 20 - 25 years old[229]. The leaves emit a balsam-like fragrance when they fall in the autumn, this is retained until the leaves are quite withered[245]. Plants in the north of their range do not produce much resin[183]. Resists honey fungus[88]. This species resents root disturbance, young plants should be pot-grown and be placed in their permanent positions as soon as possible[200]. Special Features:Attractive foliage, North American native, Invasive, Naturalizing, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is flat with shallow roots spreading near the soil surface [2-1].


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Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Harvest the seed capsules at the end of October or November, dry in a warm place and extract the seed by shaking the capsule. Stored seed requires 1 - 3 months stratification and sometimes takes 2 years to germinate. Sow it as early in the year as possible. Germination rates are often poor. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame or greenhouse for their first winter. Since they resent root disturbance, it is best to plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer of their second year and give them some protection from cold for their first winter outdoors[K]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Suckers in early spring. Layering in October/November. Takes 12 months.

Other Names

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Liquidambar formosanaFormosan Gum, Chinese Sweet Gum, Formosa Sweet GumTree12.0 6-9 MLMHSNM03 
Liquidambar orientalisOriental Sweet GumTree10.0 7-10 SLMHSNM23 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

Steve Stevenson   Thu Jun 22 2006

Observed (I presume stryaciflua) growing in happy profusion alongside a busy bac-road in Copeland NW Cumbria. apparently indifferent to the exhaust fumes and the erratic climate (boing charitable to my county!)

Eckart von Reitzenstein   Tue Oct 2 2007

I am working with the German development cooperation in a forest program in Honduras. Anyone can help us with information on Styrax production?

Wade Small   Sat Aug 22 2009

Where can i get this herb to buy.Thanks

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