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Plant of the Week

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For this plant we are going south to consider the liquid amber or Sweet Gum tree. Liquidambar styraciflua--Sweet Gum Sweet gum grows to 60 feet but may lack hardiness to grow in areas colder than the Wasatch Front. It is a narrow upright tree when young but spreads out as it gets older. The plant is not widely used here but does have some outstanding characteristics. Although a slow grower it is rarely attacked by pests, and tolerates wetness and most moist soils. The most serious problem for our area is that the trees are prone to get iron chlorosis. Avoid heavy clay soils and those with a high pH. Another drawback is the hard, spiny fruit that may puncture tires. It is not a good tree to plant along sidewalks or curbs for that reason. Sweet gum is difficult to transplant and should be moved when young. Larger trees usually will not reestablish rapidly when moved. One of the finest features of these trees is that the star shaped leaves turn bright red in autumn. It is used extensively in warmer areas of the country because it is one of the few trees that turn color even if the weather is not cold. Cultivars have been selected for their fall color or growth habit: 'Burgundy'--burgundy red fall color, holds leaves late into fall. 'Festival'--narrow upright growth habit, peach colored fall foliage. 'Palo Alto'--pyramidal symmetrical growth, bright orange fall color.

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