Liquidambar orientalis
Common Name: sweet gum
Type: Tree
Family: Altingiaceae
Native Range: Southwestern Asia
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 20.00 to 30.00 feet
Spread: 20.00 to 30.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Yellowish green
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Shade Tree
Flower: Insignificant
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Deer, Clay Soil

Culture

Reliably winter hardy to USDA Zone 7, where it is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates some light shade, but is intolerant of full shade. Prefers deep, continuously moist, fertile soils, but seems to tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions. Avoid alkaline soils however. Oriental sweet gum grows much better in areas having warm winter climates.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Liquidambar orientalis, commonly known as Oriental sweet gum or Turkish sweet gum, is a slow-growing, deciduous tree that is native to flood plains, valleys and streambanks in western Turkey. In its native habitat, it typically matures to 50-70' (less frequently to 100') tall. In the U. S., where it is infrequently planted, it usually grows much smaller (to 20-30' tall) as either a large spreading shrub or a small tree. Suckers typically appear in spring. Coarsely toothed, 5-lobed leaves (to 3” across) are smaller than those of other species of sweet gum. Each leaf lobe is additionally lobed. Fall color varies from undistinguished yellowish-brown to respectable shades of red and yellow. Non-showy, monoecious, yellow-green flowers appear in spherical clusters in April-May. Female flowers give way to spherical spiny fruiting clusters called gum balls. Flowers and subsequent fruit may not appear on plants grown in the far northern areas of the growing range.

Genus name comes from the Latin words liquidus meaning liquid and ambar meaning amber as two species produce a fragrant resin.

Specific epithet means of the Orient.

An aromatic gum (hence the common name of sweet gum) exudes from the trunk of this tree and is the source of Levant styrax (balsam used in medicine, perfumery and soaps).

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Webworms, bagworms, caterpillars, leaf miners, borers and scale may cause problems in some areas. Canker and bleeding necrosis can be significant problems. Leaf spots and wood rot may also occur. Iron chlorosis will develop in alkaline soils.

Garden Uses

Where winter hardy, oriental sweet gum may be grown as an interesting large shrub or small tree for sunny landscape areas. Street tree use may be limited by concerns over fruit litter problems and roots causing damage to sidewalks. May be difficult to locate in commerce.