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Tree & Wood Descriptions for: Liquidambar styraciflua
Some material from this species is reported to be available from environmentally responsible sources.
Although gum lumber is reported to be available, its supply has dropped because of its low price, which makes it uneconomical to cut. Prices are reported to vary greatly between gum sapwood and heartwood. Figured Red gum from the heartwood, which has a mottled or marbled appearance and a satiny shine, is reported to be highly prized and is usually priced in the valuable range. The price of Sap gum (from the sapwood) is reported to be in the inexpensive pricing range. Sweet gum is reported to be in great demand for furniture in England, France, and Germany.
Properties of the following species in the database are reported to be similar to those of American red gum:
Piquia (Caryocar villosum )
The large tree is reported to often attain a height of 60 to 100 feet (18 to 30 m), with a trunk diameter of 18 to 36 inches (50 to 90 cm). The tree is reported to be a good choice as an ornamental because of its attractive foliage in the Fall season.
The wide sapwood (also called sap gum) is creamy white, often with a pinkish tinge. It is often discolored with blue sap stain.
The heartwood (or redgum) is much more colorful than the sapwood. It ranges in color from pinkish brown to a deep full-bodied red. Streaks of black may also be present. The heartwood frequently has darker streaks of pigment figure called figured redgum. The figure is reported to be especially prominent in flat sawn timber and rotary cut veneer.
The grain is usually interlocked and irregular. Grain irregularity is reported to give quartered material an interesting ribbon-stripe figure, but may also cause distortion during drying. A limited amount of red gum is reported to have an unusual grain pattern, usually referred to as 'flame grain'. The sapwood is reported to have a plain pattern which has been described as watery.
The wood has a fine, even, and uniform texture.
The wood surface is reported to exhibit a satiny luster. The nickname Satin walnut for Sweetgum is believed to have come from the beautiful satin-like luster.
There is no characteristic odor or taste.
T8 - C4 (4/4); T5 - C3 (8/4) US
Movement in Service
The wood is reported to be very sensitive to changes in atmospheric conditions, and tends to move considerably in use. Dimensional stability is reported to be better in quartersawn material.
The heartwood is reported to have very little natural resistance to decay, and is susceptible to attack by insects.
Resistance to Impregnation
The heartwood is moderately resistant to preservative treatment. The sapwood can be impregnated easily.
The wood sometimes contains traumatic (wound) gum canals, which are usually filled with white deposits called storax. The gummy deposit is reported to be used as an ingredient in perfumes, adhesives, and salves.
Much of the wood is reported to be processed into fine cabinet veneers with attractive and differing figures. The veneers have the advantage of responding readily to staining to simulate different woods, such as cherry, maple, oak, or mahogany. Sliced sweet gum veneers are reported to make beautiful wall panelling and decorative veneers.