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Amerik. Amberbaum

American Amber Tree (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Liquidambar styraciflua (Familie Amberbaumgewächse, Altingiaceae)

Distribution: Widespread in the southeastern U.S., south to Florida and Texas, smaller occurrences in Mexico and Central America.

Appearance: In its native habitat, deciduous tree up to 45 m tall; twigs and branches often with conspicuous corky ridges; leaves aromatic, lobed like maple (but alternate, unlike maple!) with usually 5 pointed lobes. The spherical fruit clusters formed from spiny capsules that remain on the tree well into winter are striking.

Already the North American natives obtained a gum-like, sweetish resin, the Storax, by scratching the trunks of the amber tree. It was used as a perfume, as a remedy for colds and as chewing gum. In the USA, the amber tree is therefore called sweetgum (sweet gum) or American storax. The name liquidambar is also derived from this aromatic resin (Latin liquidus = liquid; Arabic ambar = perfume). The storax available in our region, however, comes from the Oriental amber tree (Asia Minor, Syria) or from the not closely related true storax tree (Styrax officinalis).

Not least because of its spectacular red fall color (part of the Indian Summer!), it is now often planted in our country as a street and park tree.

Liquidambar styraciflua mit Fruchtständen (grün)

Fruit stands (Photo: G. Aas)

Liquidambar styraciflua in roter Herbstfärbung

Autumn colouring (Photo: G. Aas)

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