American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua L.)

American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua L.)

A very widely used tree that is widely used is the American sweetgum. This very handsome tree is one of the most flexibly used trees of this size. He is known for the colorful foliage, which is noticeable in autumn. The robust features and interesting uses are what make this tree stand out.


The Liquidambar styraciflua is native to the southeastern United States. To the north, the spread is into the state of Illinois. South of the Amberbaum is found in larger spreads to Texas and central Florida. However, there are also less dense vegetation in some Central American countries, such as Mexico or Nicaragua. The tree can be found west to Arkansas and Oklahoma.


The tree belongs to the Altingiaceae family and is the most well-known type within this family. The genus belongs to the Amberbäumen. Today's sub-varieties have been created by targeted breeding, as more variations in appearance could occur. These variations are mainly due to the color and size of the leaves. In addition, targeted smaller varieties were bred. Thus, there are now also specimens that can be kept in the pot. Altogether there are more than 30 culturable varieties available, all of which are distinguished by small differences in their characteristics.


The use of the tree is to be considered differentiated, since in America it differs from the European use. In America, primary use is for practical purposes. The benefits of using the wood and using the resin differ. The wood is very reminiscent of the wood of walnut trees and is therefore often used for artistic wooden objects. In general, the wood is cut down so much. This creates further uses, such as further processing into plywood, or wooden barrels. In general, the wood can be used well for furniture. Especially children's furniture is well suited, as they then emit a pleasant scent.

Another benefit is the further processing of the resin. This was formerly used to make chewing gum. Nowadays, this production is still there, but less overall. However, the resin is now used for perfumery and as a fragrance for other cosmetic products. In natural medicine, the resin is also used now and then, as it is intended to expectorant. These uses are therefore more likely to be found in the American home of the tree. There, the tree is also used near rivers and streams to strengthen the soil and protect it from erosion.

In Europe, where the tree was introduced in the 17th century, the purposes are usually less practical. In contrast, the trees are used more for ornament and appreciated for the colorful look. In connection with this is also the already mentioned breeding of further varieties, which thereby make it possible to emphasize the optical advantages. The tree is therefore often used for gardening, but can also be found as a tree in gardens.

Appearance, Inflorescence and Bloom

The appearance of the sweetgum tree is characterized by a conical appearance. The height may be up to 30 meters in end-stage growth. Already after 20 years, half of this height has been reached. The special feature of the appearance, however, are the leaves. These are neutral in the summer in a green color, but change in the fall to a colorful overall picture. These tints are very exceptional overall. This is due to the particularly diverse coloring.

The colors vary from dark purple to bright yellow and orange. The peculiarity lies in the fact that most American amber trees have several of these colors, within a foliage. The leaves also have a rather rare form in Europe. These are star-shaped leaves that are very reminiscent of maple trees at first sight. Therefore, the sometimes used name "starfish tree".

The flowers can be seen on the basis of the inflorescence, whether it is male or female flowers. The present from the 20th year flowers, differ between upright male and drooping female flowers. This applies to the male flowers but only for the flowering period. The flowers are monoecious and bloom in May. In addition to the inflorescence, but also a further distinction between male and female flowers is possible. The male are more in the shape of a few centimeters long ears, while the female have a round head. Both flowers are neutral and green in color.


The American sweetgum trees need sunny spots. This is especially important if the trees are used for decoration, because the colorful foliage of the autumn can only be fully expressed. In order to preserve the colorful picture over a longer period of time, a wind-protected location is very helpful. Soils should be as nutritious and free from lime as possible. Also a certain amount of humidity is important, so that the tree finds good conditions. Overall, the tree can grow under conditions that are not quite optimal, but growth is then inhibited.

Plants and Mushrooms

Due to the size, transplanting of more or less adult specimens is not recommended. Therefore, the most practical way to plant a sweetgum, to use pegs. Although these need a treatment over the winter, but the whole thing is still easier than, for example, the purchase of seeds in stores. This is because the processing requires little effort. First, the sticks must be collected and have multiple leaf nodes. These must then be prepared with cuts until they have lost the shoot tip.

Subsequently, the individual pegs are planted in pots and kept at temperatures of about ten degrees Celsius over the winter. After the winter enough roots and germs should be formed so that they can then be planted. The optimal time for planting is thus the spring. This is also because of the risk of freezing when the young trees are planted in the fall.

Watering and Fertilizing

The American sweetgum needs a relatively large amount of liquid. This is usually no problem in Central and Western Europe. Only in case of longer dry periods or a generally dry soil, it is advised to water separately. Fertilizer must be added regularly in the summer months from May to August, provided that the soil is not very nutrient-rich. Mineral fertilizer or compost may be suitable for this.

Cutting and caring properly

One advantage of the American sweetgum is that it is easy to care for as soon as it has grown solidly. Cuts are not necessary from a care point of view unless it is desired for optical reasons. However, with good growth conditions, no cutting is actually necessary, since the spherical shape usually also forms by itself. In some cases, it may be necessary to cut out dead and dry wood in the fall. This can occur when the growth is not optimal. However, it is important to cut into the still fresh wood, as regrowth works better.

Regarding toxicity: The versatile possibilities of the resin have already been demonstrated. Since it is also used for medical purposes, it is not poisonous as long as it is handled properly.


The fully grown amber trees are largely winter-proof. Only at temperatures of about -25 ° C it is dangerous for the tree. Cutting the trees a bit before winter can help them get more light and air, making wintering easier. For younger specimens, a little more caution is required in winter. These are, if they are planted outside, a bit more sensitive and therefore may need some protection from the cold. However, this also depends on the severity of the winter, as relatively mild winters are usually not a problem.

Susceptibility to diseases and pests

In general, there is no danger from diseases or pests. Therefore, mistakes in attitude or wrong location are more likely to be considered when the tree is bad. There is a long list of more than a dozen animals using the tree as a food source. However, not all of them are at home in Europe and much less can gain access to the garden. In addition, the damage to the tree is very small and is not important for mature trees.


Other species of sweetgum already existing in Europe already played a role in Greek mythology, since the Harz was already known as the The naming is interesting because the word Liquiadambar consists of two parts. The first part, & quot; Liquid & ldquo; is only liquid. The word & quot; Ambar & ldquo; describes the resin, which originally gave the tree its name through the liquid juice inside.

FAQ American Amber Tree

What is an American Amber Tree?

The American Amber Tree is the best known species among the Amber trees and the only one of them who is hardy. Its Latin name is & quot; Liquidambar styraciflua & quot ;.

What does the American sweetgum look like?

The American sweetgum is one of the largest deciduous trees in Europe - it can only grow a few feet up to 40 meters depending on the variety , Particularly characteristic are its leaves, which can be star-shaped: in summer they are typically green, in autumn they dip the tree in a colorful and versatile color.

What is the profile of the American sweetgum?

Origin: North America

  • Plant family: Hamamelidaceae
  • Plant height: up to 40 meters
  • Leaves: simple, star-shaped, colorful in autumn
  • Flowering period: May
  • Hardiness: up to -24 degrees Celsius
  • Location: sunny to partially shaded
  • Peculiarity: in need of heat
  • Which varieties does the American sweetgum offer?

There are approximately 30 sub-varieties of the American sweetgum, all of which have emerged as selective breeding. They differ on the one hand in the shape, growth speed and height of the tree, but also in the color and appearance of the leaves.

For example, the variety "Octoberglut" is distinguished. three meters tall and grows very slowly. The variety & quot; Gumball & ldquo; offers a spherical shape. & quot; Slender Silhouette & ldquo; and & quot; Paarl & quot; are considered slim columnar forms. The American sweetgroom of the variety Worplesdon & ldquo; becomes red in the fall, while the cultivar "Variegata" has white-colored barrel. The variation & quot; Silver King & ldquo; offers a green-white variegated foliage on the five-meter-high crown, which can turn red, orange or even purple in the fall.

Where to buy the American sweetgum?

The plant is available in specialized stores, garden centers and in the Internet available.

What is the price of the American sweetgum?

The American sweetgum is among the most expensive deciduous shrubs. Little young plants can usually be bought for about 6 euros.

The higher the tree is already, the higher the price goes: up to 80 centimeters to 16 euros, to 125 centimeters to 30 euros, to 150 centimeters to 50 euros

Reasons for the high price are, among other things, its slow growth, the time to the first fruits and the beautiful autumn color.

Which location does the American sweetgum need?

The American sweetgum needs heat and therefore a full sun. Only here can the autumn color of the leaves develop in their full splendor. In the ground, the tree needs lime free, he loves a sheltered neighborhood. In addition, enough water should reach it.
What care does the American sweetgum need?

It is considered to be particularly easy to clean. A cut is only necessary for visual reasons. In case of prolonged drought gardeners should add a little. The American sweetgum needs fertilizer only from May to August, when the soil is not nutritious.
When does the American sweetgrower first produce fruits?

The capsule fruits do not appear until they reach the age of 20.
How it Roots The American Amber Tree?

The plant is a heart-rooting - it forms a broad, hemispherical root.
How fast does the American sweetgroom grow?

It is considered slow-growing. It may take 15 to 20 years for a five-meter tall tree to develop.
How old can the American sweetgum be?

The tree can grow to be 100 years or more.


Order: Saxifragales
Family: Altingiaceae
Genus: Amber Trees (Liquidambar)
Species: American Sweetgum
Scientific Name

Liquidambar styraciflua


The American sweetgum, originating from America, is used quite differently in Europe than in America itself. On the American side, it is considered a forestry tree and is more prized for its appearance in Europe. On the whole, it is quite easy to maintain and can handle most difficulties without much help.

Artikelbild: © Dmitry Maslov /