The Q&A Archives: what tree is this

Question: I think this is a maple tree. But it has round balls that are hard on it. I opened it up and I think that they are seeds. How can I propagate with this?

Answer: Maple trees have winged seeds, but Liquidambar has maple-looking leaves and the seedpod is a spiky woody ball. Seeds are small discs with a light brown papery wing. When the seed balls turn tan in color, the seeds are ripe and can be planted, or stored for planting next spring. They typically ripen in late fall so the seeds you have may not be mature and may not germinate. The seeds of liquidambar are easy to to sow and grow: First, soak in water, let stand in water for 12 hours. Remove from water and wrap in a paper towel, then place in a plastic bag, but don't seal the top. Once you've done that, cold stratify for 30 days by placing in the refrigerator. After stratificaton, sow seed 1/16" deep, keep moist, and the seeds should germinate.

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