Sweet Gum, Chinese Sweet Gum

Scientific Name : Liquidambar formosana Hance
Common Name : Sweet Gum, Chinese Sweet Gum
Chinese Name : 楓香, 楓香樹
Local distribution status : Native species

Anecdotes on plants

Origins Central, East, South and West China. Also distributed throughout Laos, Vietnam and South Korea.
Applications The globose infructescence of Sweet Gum is the renowned Traditional Chinese Medicine “Lulutong”. It has a funny appearance, in a size similar to a table tennis and covered with many tiny spines. Once the spines fall off, holes will be exposed on the infructescence. Lulutong can dispel wind, boost blood, promote urination, and free qi channels. The medicine name “LuLutong (Free the Channels)” literally refers to the function of blood boosting and channel freeing. Resin of Sweet Gum can also be applied in Traditional Chinese Medicine, being able to dispel wind and boost blood, relieve toxin and pain, as well as stop bleeding and promote tissue regeneration.
The timber of Sweet Gum is relatively hard and can be processed into furniture and wood boxes.
This is the Sweet Gum species being cultivated in Tai Tong Sweet Gum Woods of Tai Lam Country Park. When the leaves turn red in Autumn each year, the site attract many visitors to appreciate their beauties. The site is one of the most popular options for excursion in Hong Kong. However, this species is different from the Maple Tree, which is the plant classified under the genus Acer of Aceraceae.
Next time when you see Sweet Gum, you can observe and appreciate its palmately 3-lobed leaves and “Lulutong”!

Traits for identification

Growing habit Deciduous tree.
Height To 30 m.
Trunk Bark of trunk greyish brown, usually fissured into blocks, or peeled off. Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) of main trunk to 1 m.
Leaves Palmately 3-lobed, base cordate, apex caudate-acuminate, margin serrate, thinly leathery. Central lobe comparatively larger and longer, two lateral lobes spreading. With 3 to 5 palmately veins, prominent on both sides. Green adaxially, turn greyish green when dry, greyish white abaxially when dry. Turn orange red in autumn, then defoliate.
Flowers Unisexual inflorescences, monoecious, perianth absent.
Fruits Infructescence globose, woody, with diameter about 3 to 4 cm, brown when mature. Capsule, with persistent needle-like structure. Seeds many.
Flowering period March to June in Hong Kong.
Fruiting period July to September in Hong Kong.

Scientific name above is based on Hong Kong Herbarium website : https://www.herbarium.gov.hk/en/hk-plant-database/plant-detail/index.html?pType=species&oID=5127

Scientific names from other databases
Flora of China : Liquidambar formosana Hance
Plants of the World Online : Liquidambar formosana Hance