Liquidambar formosana Hance

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

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'Liquidambar formosana' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2021-03-02.


  • L. acerifolia Maxim.
  • L. formosana var. monticola Rehd. & Wils.


A collection of preserved plant specimens; also the building in which such specimens are housed.
Narrowing gradually to a point.
Sharply pointed.
(pl. apices) Tip. apical At the apex.
Dry dehiscent fruit; formed from syncarpous ovary.
Heart-shaped (i.e. with two equal lobes at the base).
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
midveinCentral and principal vein in a leaf.
With saw-like teeth at edge. serrulate Minutely serrate.
Appearing as if cut off.
(var.) Taxonomic rank (varietas) grouping variants of a species with relatively minor differentiation in a few characters but occurring as recognisable populations. Often loosely used for rare minor variants more usefully ranked as forms.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Liquidambar formosana' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2021-03-02.

A tree up to 125 ft in the wild; young shoots hairy or glabrous. Leaves palmately three-lobed (occasionally five-lobed through the production of subsidiary lobes at the base), up to 5 in. long, 6 in. wide, cordate to truncate at the base, lobes acute to acuminate or long-acuminate at the apex, finely serrate and sometimes with a few scattered lobules, glabrous above when mature, the undersides always in some degree hairy beneath but occasionally almost glabrous; leaf-stalks 134 to 212 in. long, glabrous or hairy. Fruits in a globular cluster about 112 in. across; each capsule is beaked, and subtended at the base by awl-shaped scales.

L. formosana was described from Formosa, where it is common in the mountains and extends to 6,500 ft. On the mainland it is widespread in southern and central China from the coast to Szechwan and Hupeh, south to Kwantung province, and also occurs in Indochina. Despite its wide distribution the species exhibits little or no variation of taxonomic significance. The var. monticola Rehd. & Wils. was described from specimens collected by Wilson in E. Szechwan and W. Hupeh (W.795). It was said to differ from the type in having the branchlets and leaves glabrous, but the authors admitted that the distinction was most evident on juvenile plants and much less apparent in the adult stage. Judging from the extensive set of specimens in the Kew Herbarium the species varies in the hairiness of the lower surface of the leaves and the nearly glabrous specimens from East Szechwan and West Hupeh are really no more than an extreme of the range of variation.

L. formosana was introduced to Kew in 1884, when seeds were received from the British Consul at Hankow; a plant from this sending lived there for many years on a wall. Most of the trees now in British gardens are under the label L. formosana var. monticola, and presumably derive from Wilson’s W.795 (see above) collected between 2,000 and 4,000 ft in W. Hupeh in 1907. These trees have the leaves nearly glabrous beneath when fully expanded, cordate at the base, widely spreading lateral lobes which are rarely lobulate, plum-purple when unfolding, later bronzy crimson, finally dull green, but turn crimson again in the autumn. The colouring of the young foliage is most evident on vigorous young trees, which grow continuously throughout the summer. This variant is quite hardy, but the season’s growth may be cut in winter if not fully ripened.

At Borde Hill in Sussex there is another form of the species in cultivation, also hardy, which was received as L. formosana simply. In this the leaves are of a much brighter green than in the commoner “var. monticola”, with more acuminately tapered lobes, which sometimes bear a few jagged lobules in addition to the normal serrations. They are mostly truncate or shallowly cordate at the base. Its provenance is unknown. There is no difference in degree of hairiness between the two trees, both having the leaves glabrous beneath except for some longish hairs at the junction of the midrib with the two lateral veins. L. formosana has recently been reintroduced by means of seeds received from Formosa, but these plants are proving to be tender.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

It should be emphasised that L. formosana var. monticola is not a distinct variety. Examination of the type-specimens at the Arnold Arboretum has confirmed the conclusion that it falls within the range of variation of L. formosana var. formosana (Acta Phytotaxica Sinica, Vol. 20 (3), p. 330 (1982)).