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Sweetgum
Liquidambar styraciflua - La Hulpe (1).JPG
Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) tree along lake side in fall.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Unranked: Angiosperms
Unranked: Eudicots
Unranked: Core eudicots
Order: Saxifragales
Family: Altingiaceae
Genus: Liquidambar
L.
Species

Sweetgum (Liquidambar) is a genus of four species of flowering plants in the family Altingiaceae, though formerly often treated in the Hamamelidaceae. They are all large, deciduous trees, 25–40 m tall, with palmately 5- to 7-lobed leaves arranged spirally on the stems and length of 12.5 to 20 cm, having a pleasant aroma when crushed.[1] Mature bark is grayish and vertically grooved.[1] The flowers are small, produced in a dense globular inflorescence 1–2 cm diameter, pendulous on a 3–7 cm stem. The fruit is a woody multiple capsule 2–4 cm diameter (popularly called a "gumball"), containing numerous seeds and covered in numerous prickly, woody armatures, possibly to attach to fur of animals. The woody biomass is classified as hardwood. In more northerly climates, sweetgum is among the last of trees to leaf out in the spring, and also among the last of trees to drop its leaves in the fall, turning multiple colors.

SpeciesEdit

The genus was much more widespread in the Tertiary, but has disappeared from Europe due to extensive glaciation in the north and the Alps, which has served as a blockade against southward migration. It has also disappeared from western North America due to climate change, and also from the unglaciated (but nowadays too cold) Russian Far East. There are several fossil species of Liquidambar, showing its relict status today.

File:Sweet Gum.jpg

UsesEdit

The wood is used for furniture, interior finish, paper pulp, veneers and baskets of all kinds. The heartwood once was used in furniture, sometimes as imitation mahogany or circassian walnut. It is used widely today in flake and strand boards. Sweetgum is a foodplant for various Lepidoptera caterpillars, such as the gypsy moth. The American Sweetgum is widely planted as an ornamental, not only within its natural range.

The hardened sap, or gum resin, excreted from the wounds of the Sweetgum, for example the American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), can be chewed on like chewing gum and has been long used for this purpose in Southern United States as a substitute for chewing gum.[1] The sap was also believed to be a cure for sciatica, weakness of nerves, etc.

References and external linksEdit

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