Plant ID forum→what tree is this?

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Name: Renate
Dublin, Ireland
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urbanplantswoman
Dec 15, 2020 8:36 AM CST
I thought this was a liquidambar at first but on closer inspection am pretty sure it isn't. It looks like a pollarded or grafted dwarf form of a much larger tree, with the crown formed by a dense growth of small branches . It is in northern Bavaria (European hardiness zone 3, American probably 7). The leaves are leathery and opposite, the larger ones the size of a large hand or slightly bigger. It is probably evergreen as it is still in leaf in mid-December.
Thanks!

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[Last edited by urbanplantswoman - Dec 15, 2020 8:38 AM (+)]
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Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

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plantladylin
Dec 15, 2020 9:10 AM CST
My first thought was also Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) but another one that comes to mind is Oriental Plane Tree (Platanus orientalis)
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Perthshire. SCOTLAND. UK
Region: United Kingdom Garden Photography Plant Identifier
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Silversurfer
Dec 15, 2020 10:22 AM CST
Leaf shape fits Liquidambar...alternate leaves fit.
But in such a cold area I would have expect a glorious autumn/fall colour. This tree is normally deciduous.

Maybe this holds the clue to it remaining green in December.
Quote Ron B...
"Seedlings from some parts of wild range do this. Seattle has numbers of them on streets that remain mostly green into December, never do color up well."

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[Last edited by Silversurfer - Dec 15, 2020 10:24 AM (+)]
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San Francisco Bay area (Zone 9a)
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Iochroma
Dec 15, 2020 10:34 AM CST
It could be L. orientalis
Perthshire. SCOTLAND. UK
Region: United Kingdom Garden Photography Plant Identifier
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Silversurfer
Dec 15, 2020 12:41 PM CST
Iochroma said:It could be L. orientalis


It could.
But it is still a mystery to me why so green.
Our Liquidambar orientalis was in mild South Wales.
Yet it was fabulous in autumn.
1. My pic taken 6th Nov a few years ago.,
2. Shows a very young leaf.

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[Last edited by Silversurfer - Dec 15, 2020 12:42 PM (+)]
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Name: John
Scott County, KY (Zone 5b)
You can't have too many viburnums..
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ViburnumValley
Dec 15, 2020 5:31 PM CST
If urbanplantswoman could get some more diagnostic images, this could be solved. If possible, take some close clear images of the leaves showing arrangement along the stems, some clear closeups of those fat dormant buds, and some pictures up inside that crown that is entirely hidden in these pictures - which could show whether this is a top grafted plant or whether it has just had regular crown pruning to create the density/shape.

To me, this has alternate arrangement of simple leaves - evidenced in image #2, as opposed to the opposite arrangement mentioned by the original poster.

I agree with Liquidambar sp. identity, and suspect it is a clone from a southern seed source in its native North America. The leaves fit; the buds shown in image #2 fit.

As for the evergreen-ness and/or lack of decent fall color expression: Southern/warmer provenance plants - when grown in colder/more northerly conditions - often do not have enough of a growing season to complete their normal cycle of outstanding fall color before shedding leaves and going dormant. Add to that the location in northern Bavaria (Germany is not well known to provide excessive numbers of hot sunny days to replicate from whence American Sweetgum hails), and it adds up to what is depicted - leaves freezing/dropping off green (image #3).

There are innumerable Pyrus calleryana planted and grown in my part of the world. It is not uncommon at all for leaves on these trees to freeze green on trees. About once in 3-5 years is the season long enough (or frosts/freezes hold off) for the full blown fall color to be expressed. There are many clones that have been propagated, and you can easily compare performance of a 'Bradford' versus 'Aristocrat', and a dozen others.

There are also at least 3 named diminutive and globular Liquidambar styraciflua clones: 'Gumball', 'Lollipop', 'Oconee' are three. Descriptions from noted authors point to lack of hardiness (especially in northerly conditions), but beautiful fall color when grown in its native haunts.

That plant just needs to take a vacation to the south of France...

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John
Name: Renate
Dublin, Ireland
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urbanplantswoman
Dec 16, 2020 7:12 AM CST
Thank You!
Many thanks, everybody! I'll go back and take more photos. I know liquidambar well from working as a gardener in Ireland, but the leaves of the specimens I know there are much softer and had already turned their autumn colours a few weeks ago. This one looks definitely evergreen. That's why it stopped me in my tracks when I saw it. I don't think it is a plane - something about the leaves, especially the young ones, is not quite right. Maybe it is a liquidambar cultivar or subspecies I do not know.
[Last edited by urbanplantswoman - Dec 16, 2020 7:15 AM (+)]
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Name: Renate
Dublin, Ireland
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urbanplantswoman
Dec 16, 2020 9:05 AM CST
Some more close-ups of the leaves. It turns out that only the leaves around the terminal growth bud of the branch are opposite (or occasionally there are three from that same point), the rest are alternate. And as I said above, the feel of the leaves is quite different from any liquidambar I know: stiffer and more leathery. Also that curious overlap of the leaf-lobes nearest the stalk in some of the younger leaves. Couldn't get a close-up of the branching of the crown as I couldn't get into that garden this time. Looks a bit like a graft to me but not sure.
Guess I'm just going to watch it for the next two months that I am here to see if it sheds its leaves. It usually gets pretty cold here in January.
Thumb of 2020-12-16/urbanplantswoman/76f37b mature leaf
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Thumb of 2020-12-16/urbanplantswoman/a32799 young leaf
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[Last edited by urbanplantswoman - Dec 16, 2020 4:24 PM (+)]
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Name: Renate
Dublin, Ireland
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urbanplantswoman
Dec 16, 2020 4:19 PM CST
Quote from ViburnumValley:
"As for the evergreen-ness and/or lack of decent fall color expression: Southern/warmer provenance plants - when grown in colder/more northerly conditions - often do not have enough of a growing season to complete their normal cycle of outstanding fall color before shedding leaves and going dormant. Add to that the location in northern Bavaria (Germany is not well known to provide excessive numbers of hot sunny days to replicate from whence American Sweetgum hails), and it adds up to what is depicted - leaves freezing/dropping off green (image #3).

There are also at least 3 named diminutive and globular Liquidambar styraciflua clones: 'Gumball', 'Lollipop', 'Oconee' are three. Descriptions from noted authors point to lack of hardiness (especially in northerly conditions), but beautiful fall color when grown in its native haunts."

very interesting points, thanks! It might be one of those liquidambar clones. There's no other way to explain the lack of autumn colour which is normally much better here than it is in Ireland, which gets even fewer sunny days and has a shorter growing season yet the liquidambar trees I know there have vibrant autumn colours.
You're right about the alternate leaves. I stupidly looked only at the leaves at the end of the branches which were opposite.

[Last edited by urbanplantswoman - Dec 16, 2020 4:21 PM (+)]
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Name: John
Scott County, KY (Zone 5b)
You can't have too many viburnums..
Region: United States of America Region: Kentucky Farmer Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
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ViburnumValley
Dec 17, 2020 11:36 PM CST
I would never call anyone stupid here - short of resisting advice stubbornly because they refuse to consider other opinions. You certainly do not fall into that camp.

Your new images of leaves and buds confirm for me that this is probably Liquidambar styraciflua, and probably a top graft of one of the diminutive clones. Definitely NOT a Plane (Platanus sp.) which has dormant buds hidden beneath the petiole attachment to the stem. That's one key ID feature for Plane species.

I propose the odd fall color behavior on inferences of climate, length of growing season, etc. I cannot claim to have gardening experience in Europe - but I've been there to visit a lot of times since I gained wedded bliss in 1987. My lovely wife grew up in the Rhine valley near Heidelberg. We've gone to visit her family every couple of years since, and I've been able to indulge my horticultural interests each time as we travel around to near and far places. You haven't stated, but I'd be interested to know in which community this plant grows.

Certainly, lots of North American species can grow and thrive in Europe - but they don't all behave as one might read in the texts, or as they grow in their native environments. Likewise with the use of European stalwarts in our North American landscapes; the more you can line up the climatic and environmental conditions, the more reproducible the results will be.

This is all great fun to me, to look at images from afar and try to figure out what is going on based on the commentary and information provided by whomever posts. It is a great exercise to stretch powers of observation (discern what the unknown plant is), and then interpret conditions, exposure, anthropomorphic influences, etc. on why that plant is behaving that way based on one's own experience in growing plants, traveling to see plants, and then putting together all those variables in a sensible way.
John
Name: Renate
Dublin, Ireland
Image
urbanplantswoman
Dec 19, 2020 5:48 PM CST
Thanks again, ViburnumValley!
Next time I pass by there I will try sneak in again and take a look at the trunk to check for signs of a graft. I also noticed another specimen of this tree in the same garden and that one looks much more bare. I'll keep an eye on them over the winter.
Perthshire. SCOTLAND. UK
Region: United Kingdom Garden Photography Plant Identifier
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Silversurfer
Dec 20, 2020 4:16 AM CST
May I suggest you go to the front door and say you love their tree.."please can you tell me what it is?"

I have done this while abroad on several occasions...and found everyone has been just delightful...even when they have not spoken English. I have had my hand taken and have been gently led on a guided tour of the other plants in their garden.To make sure I did not miss any of their plant treasures. A magical moment that I will remember...I still have the photos.
Other home owners have offered fresh fruit picked from their garden...other refreshments.

Maybe they will not know the name ...but you can maybe get a good look for a graft. Maybe some fruits will be remaining.
Worth a try.
Name: Renate
Dublin, Ireland
Image
urbanplantswoman
Jan 29, 2021 10:54 AM CST
Oh, I often do this, and get into all sorts of interesting conversations, but unfortunately this tree is in the grounds of a large apartment block.

I walked by a few days ago, and it is still green albeit looking a little shook, and it has shed some more leaves. I'll be curious to see if it sheds the remaining leaves before making new ones in the spring.

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