The Q&A Archives: Is This Liquidambar Cv.aurora?

Question: Hi Staff

Thanks for your time. I am from the sub-tropical city of Rockhampton, Central Queensland, Australia, (approx zone 10 on average) where it is possible to successfully grow Liquidambar Styraciflua. (Last late autumn/winter saw most of these trees of limited occurrence in this region to colour up somewhat, as we had consecutively cool nights around 5-10 Celcius).

Autumn colour however can be very unreliable with many Liquidambar 'standards' in our climate/location; it depends primarily on yearly weather patterns to drag up cool air from southern latitudes, especially during the nights...

However I came across a Liquidambar speciman which is definitely not a typical standard Stryraciflua. It is approx 30-50+ years, informs the present owners/neighbours of this tree...

Growth habit and patterns:

-Very narrow growing, (conical/tightly pyramidical?) more compact growth than standard, no more than 1.7 metres wide
-approx 3-4 metres high
-Seemingly very slow growth
-No corking on single main trunk or branches.
-Larger leaves than the typical standards. Somewhat "droopy" leaves in appearance and wider for some of the leaves.
-Has a relatively thin light gray trunk (which is slightly fissured)
-Stunning autumn colour of predominately reds and with a little yellow - even in our warm autumns/winters. This attribute never fails, whilst other liquidambar standards in the vicinity often have "rusty" or poor colours even in warm autumn/winter months.
- Over 20 yrs old
- throws up occasional suckers, which seem identical in every way to parent tree (ie leaf shape, bark colour/texture etc)

Would you be able to confirm or advise a positive ID of this Liquidambar?

Does climate play a significant role in changing or determining a particular species of Liquidambar (and other trees/plants)? Like changing overall shape or leaf size??

Answer: According to Michael Dirr's "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants," Aurora is a variegated form of Liquidambar styraciflua and thus would not be a likely match. In my quick review I did not find any likely matches, however that does not mean the tree was never introduced at some time either in this country or elsewhere. It could also, of course, be a seedling.

You might want to consult with the Saratoga Horticultural Foundation to see if they might be able to help you identify it. They have introduced some named varieties of Liquidambar and thus might conceivably be familiar with this one. Their web site address is:

mailing address:
15185 Murphy Avenue
San Martin, CA 95046


Good luck with your quest.

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