The Liquidambar is one of a group of trees belonging to the Witch-Hazel family. Its name is derived from the Latin for ‘fluid’ and ‘amber’ describing the balsam-like fluid exuded from the sapwood when tapped. Hence its common name – sweet gum.
The Liquidambar is a deciduous tree that comes from eastern United States of America. It can be found from New England to the Gulf of Mexico and Texas.
In Sydney, the tree can grow to 20 metres or more with a single trunk conical at first but broadening in age. The lower branches tend to be horizontal but ascending towards the apex.
Its unusual fruit is a spiky ball, usually hanging in clusters of two or three, on a long pendulous stalk.
The green and lobed leaves are similar to maples, having five main veins that are yellowish-green and prominent on the underside.
Being deciduous the leaves change colour before they fall.
Without doubt the outstanding feature of this tree is its autumn foliage. Leaves change colour producing a magnificent array of autumn colours ranging through yellow, orange, ruby–red and crimson. The variations and combinations of colour are a highlight of autumn in the Parklands.
Individual trees vary in colour and change at different times, adding to the variety of the display.
Liquidambars are popular in large gardens as they provide deep cool shade and are fast growing. These are hardy trees that will flourish under very warm conditions provided some moisture is provided in summer. However they have strong, aggressive root systems which may affect household piping and care must be taken when planting.
Where can they be seen in the Parklands:
In the Parklands, there are two areas to view these trees: Southeast of Willow Pond and opposite Musgrave Pond. Both these areas have corridors of Liquidambars that make for beautiful viewing throughout autumn.