Monday, July 9, 2018

Sweetgum
















"Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is one of the most important commercial hardwoods in the Southeastern United States[citation needed]. Its wood is bright reddish brown (with the sapwood nearly white) and may have black grain in the heartwood; it is heavy, straight, satiny, and close-grained, but not strong...

...The tree's gum resin, for which the tree is named, exudes from the bark of the tree when wounded.[18] It has many names, including liquid amber or copalm balsam. It is a kind of native balsam, or resin, resembling turpentine. It may be clear, reddish, or yellow, with a pleasant smell like ambergris. As the resin ages, it solidifies, the form in which it was historically exported in barrels. The resin is produced by stripping, boiling, and pressing the tree's bark.

...The hardened sap, or gum resin, excreted from the wounds of the sweetgum, for example, the American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), can be chewed on like chewing gum and has been long used for this purpose in the Southern United States.[4] The sap was also believed to be a cure for sciatica, weakness of nerves, etc."
-Wiki

When I moved to Virginia many moons ago, a woman pointed to a sweetgum tree and called it a junk tree. I took her word for it, but thought it was too bad, as it had such pretty star shaped leaves. 
I noticed in Sixty's post that it's called Liquidambar, and I assumed it was because of the lovely fall leaf color shown in the top picture I took a while back.
When I was a teen, I did a Home Ec project with gum balls by gluing them to a cone-shaped piece of Styrofoam. I may have spray-painted it silver, but I can't remember.
http://freidaybird.blogspot.com/2011/11/


9 comments:

Sixty Grit said...

I like working with sweetgum. It is a great wood, fine grained, works nicely and it frequently has nice figure. The burls I worked up also had the benefit of having a great fragrance - working them made it evident how the tree got its name.

It is not a well liked tree - people complain about stepping on the seed pods - they call them gumballs around here, and I can see how that might be an issue if one was not wearing shoes. But not all stereotypes are true - I not only own shoes, I wear them, and have never stepped on a pointy gumball while barefooted.

Remember that post I did a while back that had the bowl with the faces in it - Chip animated it - that was a bowl made from sweetgum.

Great wood, unless you are trying to split it for firewood. Then you will learn some new words - it is a cross grained wood and splitting it is nigh on impossible.

deborah said...

Yes, I remember it :) Yes, gumballs can be pretty tiresome, but what a cool fruit! Keep a look out for more burls.

chickelit said...

(Liquidambar styraciflua)

I get a whiff of styrene from that name. The "ene" suffix means "daughter of."

Evi L. Bloggerlady said...

I prefer tupelo (black gum) for fall color, but sweetgum is a very attractive small tree.

windbag said...

Did someone say sweetgum tree?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSDfH289QP8

deborah said...

Makes sense, chick, I think, since it's a gum?

deborah said...

Evi, went and looked at images, very pretty. Windbag, nice, thanks :)

chickelit said...

@deborah: I can think of several simple organic compounds named after their tree origins: styrene, toluene, and xylene come to mind immediately. They are all classed as “aromatics” a term which does double duty in chemistry meaning both pleasant smelling and structurally related.

deborah said...

Mmmm...aromatics, one of the things that make life worth living. It's funny how things that aren't good to inhale still smell good, like gasoline.