Monday, December 11, 2023

Develop Liquidambar styraciflua: The Native American Sweetgum Tree


As a Northeasterner, I’m accustomed to sugar maples dominating lots of my close by forests. And from the pervasiveness of this tree stems a wholesome set of cultural associations (every part from our beloved pancake syrup to Canadian flags). Equally – the American sweetgum tree (liquidambar styraciflua) is the southeastern United States model of the New England Sugar Maple.

Each are deciduous bushes, glorious and sumptuous massive shade bushes. Each have intense and exquisite fall foliage, and each have edible sap that has been used for varied functions all through historical past by Native folks and indigenous folks, pioneers and colonizers, and trendy People.

In case you squint your eyes, the candy gum might (particularly at some occasions of the 12 months) nearly move for a sugar maple with its comparable leaves.

liquidambar tree by @kennythatcherphoto
Candy gum tree by @kennythatcherphoto

Figuring out Native Sweetgum Timber

This tree’s two most notable and distinctive traits are its simply identifiable spiny fruits and its resinous sap.

Candy gum bushes are additionally typically known as “gum ball bushes”. It isn’t nonetheless due to their spiky, spherical fruit capsules (although you may assume that’s the reason). Slightly, when the bark is broken, the sap runs out, creating balls on the tree that may be plucked off and chewed.

It’s also a misnomer that these notorious gum balls are candy. They aren’t actually – besides by comparability to a different regional native tree that equally exudes this type of sap: Nyssa Sylvatica – the black gum tree. Nyssa gumballs are very bitter and bitter; sweetgum is just reasonably bitter (so we name them candy – is sensible, proper?).

The fruit capsules of candy gum bushes are typically known as “gum balls” or “monkey balls” and are recognized for his or her spiky look. Crafters and interior designers usually use dried candy gum fruit capsules in wreaths and different ornamental preparations. You may also discover Candy gum balls in potpourri – they’ve a light scent, however due to their texture, they make a stunning pure association. Youngsters play with them (they’re nice for slingshots and creativeness video games). They will also be painted, dyed, or coated in glitter to create distinctive ornaments and decorations.

Sweetgum is among the most necessary business hardwoods within the southeast. It’s used for every part from positive furnishings and cupboards to veneer to pulpwood and railroad ties. The wooden is good-looking and recognized for its distinctive pinkish-brown coloration and grain patterns. It’s also a average to fast-growing deciduous tree that prefers moist bottomlands.

Liquidambar styraciflua – Wildlife Pollinator supporter

Take into account rising Liquidambar styraciflua in your panorama as a superb native shade tree that can even help quite a lot of wildlife, together with small mammals like grey squirrels, beavers, and chipmunks.

spiky sweet gum fruits
Sweetgum tree fruits by Martin LaBar

An enormous choice of birds eat the sweetgum seeds. (Goldfinches, purplefinches, mallard geese, wooden duck, bobwhite quails, Carolina chickadees and wrens, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, white-throated sparrows, towhees, sparrows, mourning doves, wild turkeys, and northern bobwhite.) Within the spring, its feminine flowers are a meals supply for ruby-throated hummingbirds and different nectar feeders.

It’s also a larval host for over thirty species of butterflies, the Promethea moth and the attractive Luna moth.

You probably have a tree close by, you may gather the seed balls to make chicken feeders. Fill a suet cage or mesh bag with peanut butter and roll it in crushed candy gum balls to create a pure chicken feeder that birds can cling to.

​Rising candy gum in your Panorama

Sweetgum is broadly planted as a decorative, particularly outdoors its pure vary, resulting from its sensible fall foliage (normally crimson).

Its quick development and large tolerance make it a great road, shade, and windbreak tree selection. Sweetgum is a stunning specimen tree paired with a inexperienced garden taking part in background to its stunning fall coloration. (It’s shade illiberal, needing full solar and the power to change into the massive overstory and glorious shade tree it’s meant to be.)

The candy gum is native to the southeastern United States and Mexico. However, its vary extends into the midwest and alongside the coast of the japanese United States. Adaptable to varied climates, from humid and subtropical to extra temperate areas, they’ll develop into zone 5 with some choices hardy to zone 4. In addition they thrive in varied habitats, together with bottomlands, swamps, and upland forests.

Regardless of the candy gum being a historically ‘southern’ tree, the most important, the Champion liquidambar styraciflua (Frequent identify sweetgum tree), is situated in Burlington, New Jersey. It’s 228 inches in circumference and stands 132 ft tall. (sometimes, you may anticipate them to develop as much as 100 ft tall and dwell for a number of hundred years).

The distinctive star-shaped leaf of sweetgum tree
The star-shaped leaves are one of the crucial distinctive options of candy gum bushes. Candy gum bushes are recognized for his or her gorgeous fall foliage, starting from deep crimson to purple and even orange.
The distinctive star-shaped leaf – picture F Delventhal

Listed here are just a few extra attention-grabbing causes to develop the Candy Gum Tree (Liquidambar styraciflua):

1. The scientific identify “Liquidambar” is derived from the Latin phrases “liquidus” (liquid) and “ambar” (amber), referring to the aromatic gum that oozes from the tree’s bark.

2. The tree produces a aromatic, resinous gum that Native People and early European settlers used for varied functions, together with chewing gum and medicinal functions like treating wounds and respiratory illnesses. Candy gum bark was additionally used as a poultice for treating sore muscle tissues and joints. Candy gum resin has historically been utilized in incense and perfumes.

3. In some Native American cultures, candy gum bushes symbolize power and unity in addition to resilience and adaptableness resulting from their means to thrive in numerous habitats.

4. The primary-known written point out of the American sweetgum dates again to 1519, when the resinous liquid amber was utilized in ceremonies between Spanish conquistador Cortez and Aztec emperor Montezuma. Native People traded candy gum resin, and traces have been discovered at historic archaeological websites. Fossils of candy gum bushes dated to the Cretaceous interval have additionally been found.

5. Mature candy gum bushes have deeply furrowed bark with corky ridges. In the course of the American Civil Warfare, troopers from the South typically known as candy gum bushes “Alligator Timber” because of the resemblance of the tree’s bark to alligator pores and skin.

6. Native American tribes just like the Cherokee related candy gum bushes with the planet Jupiter. They believed the tree might carry good luck when planted close to houses.

7. Some folks use dried gum balls as hearth starters in fireplaces or wood-burning stoves as a result of they’re extremely flammable.

8. Some gardeners place candy gum balls across the backyard to discourage slugs and snails. The prickly texture will be uncomfortable for these pests.


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