Liquid Amber

We inherited these trees when we moved into this house roughly a decade ago.  We actually had nine, but a desire to completely change the landscaping on the entire property has whittled that number down to two.  No regrets.


Our last two Liquid Amber trees.

A handy growing summary chart is at the end of the article.

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(Do you have trees that you need removed or other source of a lot of wood?  Make my fire starter “bombs” and turn that wood into a “free” heat source and reduce your smoke output at the same time.  Better than putting those logs into a landfill!)

20171015_210250Don’t get me wrong, the trees are nice.  They are tall without being wide, so you get the look of mature trees without the overbearing shade.  Their fall color is spectacular and the falling leaves give us a lot of material for compost.  They seems to take the heat here (long stretches of 100°+ F) with no problems, can tolerate winter temperatures down to zone 5, and have few diseases or pests that it succumbs to.  However, they are rather narrow, so by themselves they can get lost in your yard.  Their roots are shallow so they are not very drought resistant.  In fact, at one point we were unaware that we had a sprinkler head that was blocked near one of the remaining trees, and that tree lost a few large branches over the course of a few months.  We are pretty sure it was due to the ground being dry, even though the tree was getting moisture in other areas.

20170930_101240My biggest gripe with this tree, though, are the seed pods.  Look at these things!  They are over an inch in diameter, they’re spiky, and they’re numerous.  What this means is that you will have several foot stabbing, ankle turning, land mines scattered every year in your yard.  If you decide to plant this tree, put it somewhere that the seed pods can fall away from any walking areas.

20170930_101459.jpgThe Old Man and I have debated about removing the remaining two trees for a while now.  We probably will someday, but for now we enjoy the fall color and make the boys pick up the seed pods.  Each winter, flocks of tiny birds swarm our trees to pick the seeds out before the pods fall, so at least we get a show and provide something for the locals.

Plant Summary:

  • Perrenial
  • Deciduous
  • Height: up to 40 feet
  • Width: up to 20 feet
  • Sun: full sun
  • Water: regular water, especially during dry spells
  • Soil pH: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Soil type: tolerates various soils
  • Key nutrients: balanced
  • Planting time: winter through early spring, while the tree is still dormant (no leaves)


3 thoughts on “Liquid Amber

  1. Liquidambar styraciflua is the Latin name. The common name used to be sweetgum. I do not know why it is so commonly known as liquid amber. What does that even mean? I was told that it refers to the sap, but I really do not know. They are spectacular trees, but not for urban or landscaped areas. Many of ours are on the edges of forested areas, where the maces are not a problem. We prefer to keep those in landscaped areas away from building. Innate structural deficiency is a serious problem where the trees are close enough to buildings or parking lots where falling limbs might land where they could do some damage.
    The best planting time for them is actually while they are still dormant through winter. They are out cold as soon as the autumn leaves are gone. By spring, they are breaking dormancy, which is the worst time to bother them with planting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’ve had a handful of branches come down. The trees are right next to our shed, but thankfully none have done any damage. We try to keep up on the branches over the roof just in case. When we had nine of them, those seed pods were everywhere! We actually got lucky that they had been planted under the power lines along our property so PG&E offered to take them down for free. So then they became fire-wood! I was thinking early spring in terms of them being still dormant, but thanks for the tip, I will update the information to clarify that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Early spring would be fine as long as the are still firmly closed. (Realistically, they can be planted when convenient. Planting them as they are just coming out of dormancy is most stressful, but is nothing that they can not recover from.)

        Liked by 1 person

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