Talk:Liquidambar styraciflua

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Family Altingiaceae[edit]

Is it worth noting that this species used to be considered part of the family Hamamelidaceae? The entries for the families Altingiaceae and Hamamelidaceae make a note of this. Since I'm not an expert on the subject, I have no idea how common this type of change in classification is, or if it's being hotly debated, or if it even matters for this type of article. I do know of at least one book that places it in Hamamelidaceae, so other people may be confused if they see no mention of that, particularly since it is a well known tree. If it is mentioned, is there some precedent for where it would be added?Gadogado (talk) 05:59, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

Comment by MPF[edit]

There are American Sweetgum (Liquid amber) trees in Southern California. That would extend the locations of where these trees are found. Was California not included because the trees are not native to the state?

Correct, they are introduced there - MPF 11:17, 13 January 2006 (UTC)


I think this page needs to be merged with sweetgum —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs).

No, because this page is just about one species of sweetgum, the other is about the whole genus - MPF 23:52, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

American Sweetgum apparent error[edit]

MPF: In the American Sweetgum wiki you added the quantitative information (Sept 2004) that the gumball fruits have 40 to 60 capsules, each with a terminal spike and two small seeds. In fact, it's the other way around-- each capsule, as you can count for yourself, has two spikes and one seed. That gives each gumball about 100 total spikes, not 50. Later, when the gumballs open, each empty seed capsule (as I see from those still around from last year, now dry) is flanked by the two spikes on the wedges that define it, in a very cone-like way. But still 100 spikes or so. Counting can be done by cutting them off methodically in pairs, with some scissors, in case you're not sure of yourself.

Amazingly, this piece of misinformation (2 seeds and one spike per capsule) has propagated itself all over the web. I don't know where it started from. But these trees are all up and down the streets of the city where I live (in Southern California), and I'm beginning to think that some biologists can't count! Or don't look! It's sort of like Aristotle and the number of teeth a horse has. Steve 01:43, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

Later. I believe we have agreed that it is 40-60 capsules in a gumball, each of which has two spikes, for 80-120 total spikes. Each capsule may have one or two seeds, so this is a more difficult count (however, each capsule leaves one hole when the fruit opens up and releases seeds, and dries later-- so the "hole count" is also 40-60 with a mean of about 50). So the capsule count and the spike count are relatively constant at a mean of 50 and 100, respectively, but the seed count varies anywhere between these values. SBHarris 05:07, 14 June 2009 (UTC)

American Sweetgum....[edit]

Is there any way that the tree can be made sterile or whatever you call it for the tree to not make those balls every year.......Or, has anyone had experiance with a particular lawn tool to pick these balls up from the yard besides a rake? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 16:43, 2 March 2007 (UTC).

Apparently, there is a chemical that "may" be able to reduce the capsules. Maybe a link can be found and added. Unless there is some related article on pesticides - not sure. M.D. Vaden of Oregon.--Mdvaden 00:22, 29 July 2007 (UTC)

I'm a bit late to respond to your question but there is in fact a variety of sweetgum known as 'Rotundiloba' also called Round-Lobed Sweetgum which does not produce the "gumball" fruit. It's pointed leaves are rounded but otherwise it resembles the regular Liquidambar styraciflua. (talk) 04:54, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

New range map[edit]

Applied a new range map copied from US Forestry Service range map and follows style of map used for Water oak and others. Noles1984 18:46, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

Tree from hell[edit]

I was just watching a TV program in which one of these trees caused over 3/4 million dollars damage to a house because of it's large and aggressive root system. The tree's roots were still tearing the foundation apart and sending up new shoots two years after it had been cut down.

I think some mention of this should be made in the interest of suffering humanity. It is reported to be a large problem among southern california arborists. —Preceding unsigned comment added by MartinTheK (talkcontribs) 20:10, 1 September 2007 (UTC)

Yeah, this article should include some caveats about this tree.

Root damage to structures is not the only potentially destructive characteristic of this tree that should be publicized. They're also known to throw (drop) limbs. And in older, larger specimens the limbs can be as big as fully grown trees themselves.

There are at least three reasons for the limb drops. One is the genetic tendency to "produce inherently defective branch attachment angles, commonly called codominant leaders, usually with included bark at the joints. This structural defect often causes the attached branch to break out of the tree and leave a large wound in the main trunk." (

A second cause is drought or heat stress that can cause the tree to spontaneously "prune" itself by throwing off limbs, "ridding itself of branches to preserve water in its trunk." ( This can also be caused by damaging the root system by such things as excavation near or around the tree. The tree can actually be something of a hazard for several seasons following such an excavation, as it rids itself of branches to adapt to the less effective root system. I don't have a specific reference. This tendency to throw limbs after root cutting was mentioned by Georgia gardening expert Walter Reeves ( in a radio broadcast for which I have no date.)

A third cause, one I'm less sure about, is a supposed tendency to lose limbs in winter storms and perhaps high winds. The reason I'm less sure about it is there doesn't seem to be a consensus on this. One source warms not to plant it too close to the house because it can lose limbs in winter storms. ( while another lists it as a tree "resistant" to winter storm damage. (

So there are three caveats to this tree that should be included in the article: Possible root damage to nearby structures tht you mentioned, the possibility of the tree dropping very large limbs, and of course those annoying spiny "sweetgum ball" seed pods. Brindle5489 (talk) 15:32, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Agreed, these are really the trees from hell. I have a manmade pond with an earthen dam that these trees love. I cut them done again and again, but the "aggressive root system" that you mention just keeps shooting new trees up each spring. I've seen half a dozen trees spring up from where a single one has been cut down. Roundup or fire is pretty much the only way I've seen them controlled. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:53, 21 May 2009 (UTC)

Unsourced section[edit]

The following text remains unsourced, so I have moved it here until such time as it accumulates some sources: these have been popularly nicknamed "ankle biters" or "ankle twisters (in California),[citation needed] "bommyknockers",[citation needed] "conkleberrys",[citation needed] "cukoo-birs",[citation needed] "gumballs",[citation needed] "monkey balls",[citation needed] "pinkelponkers" (in North Carolina),[citation needed] "space bugs",[citation needed], "sticky balls" and "bonghorses".[citation needed]

This section's colorful names caught the attention of The Western Recorder: Trees and people: Known by one's fruit. Imagine that! I added an editor's note to help keep in within reason in the future: "Please support names with a valid reference; unsourced names will be deleted". Pinethicket (talk) 19:12, 10 January 2012 (UTC)


Ok - With younger trees I frequently confuse this tree with some other type. How old and a rough size statement- must the tree be before it starts to bear fruit (the gumballs) . Description of the bark is interesting and helpful, how about a picture to help visualize this. Wfoj3 (talk) 01:11, 1 June 2014 (UTC)

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