Thank you to whatsthatpicture@Flickr aka James (of Catching the Rain weblog) for sharing today’s photograph (original via BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Much appreciated! I also note that James runs the What’s That Picture web site, a “community-based site for anyone who wants to find out where, what, or who is featured in an old picture”, if you’d like to investigate that, as well.
The sweetgum cultivar ‘Lane Roberts’ was posted to BPotD in January 2007: Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Lane Roberts’. Today’s write-up is an expansion of the text made for that brief entry.
Some people occasionally confuse sweetgum trees with maples based on the shape of the leaf (via Bioimages). Absent the fruit, a quick way to distinguish a Liquidambar from an Acer is the leaf arrangement: sweetgums have alternate leaves, while maples have opposite.
When fruit are present, though, there’s no mistaking the two. Maples have “keys”, or more scientifically, samaras. The fruit of Liquidambar, shown in today’s photograph, is a syncarp of capsules, i.e., a conglomerated fruit of individual capsules.
The genus Liquidambar has a curious distribution: eastern North America and Mexico to Guatemala (Liquidambar styraciflua), Turkey and Greece (Liquidambar orientalis) and southeast Asia (Liquidambar acalycina and Liquidambar formosana). Fossil species are known from western North America, Europe and the Russian Far East, indicating the present-day distribution is at least in part relictual (i.e., the genus was once far more widespread).
Photography resource link: I’ve previously featured the work of Mike Mander as a resource link, but I’m going to suggest revisiting his site if you haven’t done so lately (or ever!). Mike’s posted a number of photographs from a recent visit to UBC Botanical Garden in his galleries, along with images from other excursions. Well worth the time!