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Published In: Species Plantarum 2: 999. 1753. (1 May 1753) (Sp. Pl.) Name publication detailView in BotanicusView in Biodiversity Heritage Library

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 8/18/2017)
Acceptance : Accepted
Project Data     (Last Modified On 7/9/2009)
Status: Native


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1. Liquidambar styraciflua L. (sweet gum)

Pl. 425 f, g; Map 1901

Plants resinous trees, monoecious, with conic crowns and furrowed bark. Twigs with scattered simple hairs, older branchlets sometimes developing woody longitudinal wings. Buds sessile, dark brown, glossy, with about 8 bud-scales. Petioles 5–18 cm long. Leaf blades 7–16 cm long, 9–21 cm wide, palmately veined, 5- or 7-lobed, the sinuses extending 0.4–0.7 of the way to the leaf base, the base truncate to cordate, the lobes long-tapered to a sharp point, the margins finely toothed the undersurface with dense tufts of hairs at the base in the axils of the main veins, otherwise with sparse hairs, mainly along the veins. Inflorescences of many-flowered, dense, pistillate and staminate headlike clusters, the staminate ones short-stalked and clustered toward the ends of branches, the pistillate ones fewer and on long stalks immediately behind the staminate ones. Staminate flowers green; pistillate flowers dark purple, sometimes turning green after flowering. Calyx and corolla absent. Stamens 4–8(–10), the filaments relatively long and slender, the anther sacs attached at the base. Staminodes absent. Styles curled at flowering, persistent on the fruit as a beak, becoming enlarged to 5–7 mm long, straight, sharply pointed. Ovules several per locule. Infructesence stalks 4–8 cm long. Capsules fused together to form spherical multiple fruits 2.5–3.0 cm in diameter, woody, brown at maturity, dehiscing longitudinally between the locules but not explosively. Seeds 1 or 2 per fruit, 6–9 mm long, irregularly oblong-elliptic in outline, brown with a pattern of fine darker brown lines or mottling, the body thinning to a rounded wing at the tip. 2n=32. April–May.

Scattered in southeastern Missouri in the Mississippi Lowlands, Ozark Border, Ozark, and Big Rivers Divisions, but escaping around planted trees north to the St. Louis area (eastern U.S. west to Illinois and Texas; Mexico, Central America). In woods, on bottomlands, river banks, lower slopes, and railroads.

This species is often grown as a street tree, prized for its deep red fall coloration. However, many homeowners have a passionate dislike for the long-persistent fruiting structures, which can clog drains, interfere with lawn mowing, and are painful if stepped on with bare feet. The lumber has been used for cabinetry, furniture, and interior finish. The inner bark produces a fragrant resin, known as American styrax or storax, which is used in cosmetics, soaps, perfumes, and tobacco, and as a fixative in lacquers and adhesives. Native Americans used an infusion of the bark medicinally for diarrhea and dysentary and also in poultices for cuts, sores, and bruises (Moerman, 1998).



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