Liquidambar formosana Hance

Chinese sweet gum, Formosan gum
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Liquidambar formosana
Elena Torres & Santiago Moreno
Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

Liquidambar formosana: Appearance of a young specimen in spring and summer

Appearance of a young specimen in spring and summerBranch with alternate, palmately lobed leaves with 3 triangular-ovate lobes

Liquidambar: Liquid amber, referring to the aromatic resin of these trees

formosanus, -a, -um: from Formosa, the former name of the island of Taiwan


Habit: Deciduous, monoecious tree 10-20 m tall (up to 30 m when wild) with a ± pyramidal or cylindrical crown, a straight trunk with scaly bark, branches usually with crests of suberose bark, and reddish twigs with marked leaf scars and caducous brownish hairs.

Leaves: alternate, deciduous, simple, with long deciduous reddish stipules and a petiole 8-12 cm long; blade 7-20 cm long x 10-15 cm wide, with a broadly ovate outline, palmately lobed with 3 acuminate triangular-ovate lobes with serrate margins, sparsely covered with hairs at the corners of the veins on the underside and with a resinous smell when crushed.

Flowers: small and not showy on unisexual inflorescences, spikes arranged in terminal racemes (male flowers) or globose, solitary, axillary and hanging (female flowers); male flowers naked, with numerous stamens; female flowers apetalous, with an obconical gamosepalous calyx, with 5-8 staminodes, a 2-locular ovary and free styles.

Fruit: capsule crowned by the 2 persistent styles; infructescences 3-4 cm in diam., globose, woody, echinulate and hanging; seed compressed, with a short terminal wing.


It flowers in spring.

Geographic origin

Native to China and SE Asia.


This tree has a great ornamental value, particularly because of the reddish color of its foliage in autumn. Although its leaves could be confused with those of some species of maples (genus Acer), the latter are opposite. It has several medicinal uses. It produces a balsamic oleoresin that is similar to that of L. styraciflua.

It is propagated from seeds.

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