Often mistaken for a maple, the Liquidambar has similarly-shaped five-lobed leaves. However, while the leaves on the maple are arranged in opposite pairs, those of the liquidambar appear alternately. It is mainly grown for the autumn colour, the leaves turning brilliant shades of purple, crimson, orange and yellow, making it a popular ornamental tree.
Thriving on most well drained soils, stay clear of heavily alkaline soils.
Did you know?
A Spanish naturalist by the name of Hernandez was the first European to discover the tree in the early 16th century. It was given its botanical name because of its aromatic gum, which he described as 'liquid amber'. However, it wasn't until 1681 that it was finally introduced to Britain by the missionary plant collector John Bannister.
The distinctive compound fruit is hard, dry, and globose, 1-1½ inches in diameter, composed of numerous capsules. Each capsule, containing one to two small seeds has a pair of terminal spikes.
Fallen, opened fruits are often abundant beneath the trees; these have been popularly nicknamed "burr balls", "gum balls", "space bugs", "monkey balls", "bommy knockers" or "sticker balls".