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'Slender Silhouette' Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua 'Slender Silhouette'

Previously known as:

  • Liquidambar styraciflua 'Fastigiata'
Phonetic Spelling
li-kwid-AM-bar sti-ra-si-FlOO-a 'SLEN-duh sil-00-et'
Description

'Slender Silhouette' is a tall columnar cultivar of the sweet gum or the Altingiaceae family.  As it matures, it will maintain its erect, uniform, columnar form, growing upwards with the top of the tree about the same width as near the bottom. It will grow to a height of 50 to 60 feet and a width of 5 to 6 feet. The bark is deeply furrowed as the tree ages. The deciduous leaves are star-shaped, and the tree produces fruits that are rounded prickly, woody capsules. Initially, they seem fruitless, but gradually they begin to produce a few fruits. The yields from year to year can fluctuate, but they are much less in number than the species. The fall foliage color is unpredictable, but it may be in shades of yellow, orange, red, or burgundy.

This cultivar was introduced by Don Shadow, a nurseryman from Franklin County, Tennessee, that discovered it growing wild.

The genus name, Liquidambar, originates from the Latin words liquidus which means "liquid," and ambar meaning "amber." This refers to the tree resin. The specific epithet, styraciflua, means "flowing storax" which is a fragrant gum resin. The cultivar name, 'Slender Silhouette,' references the tree's habit.

'Slender Silhouette' is best planted in poor soils and tough spots to insure slower growth and maintain its more narrow habit. If t is planted in ideal conditions, the tree can grow too rapidly and split open. Plant in the full sun, and moist, well-drained soils. Although it is dry soil tolerant when mature, during the first year, the soil should be kept moist without overwatering. Apply a 3-4" layer of mulch around the base to assist the fleshy roots in maintaining moisture as well as to moderate the temperatures.  If pruning is necessary to remove some straggler branches, it should be done in late winter to early spring before the tree leaves out. It has moderate resistance to wind damage.

The cultivar's slender habit makes it ideal for thin or narrow spaces like medians and small gardens as a vertical accent plant. The columnar form also makes it a great choice as a screen or tall planting that borders along property lines. 

Seasons of Interest:

Foliage:  Spring, Summer, and Fall        Fruits: Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • deciduous, tall, narrow, columnar, up to 50 to 60 feet high and 5 to 6 feet wide
  • glossy, dark green, star-shaped leaves
  • insignificant flowers in the spring
  • fluctuating numbers of fruits produced in the fall that are small, round, prickly, woody capsules
  • unpredictable fall foliage color

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  'Slender Silhouette' generally has no serious insect pests or disease problems. The leaves can suffer from chlorosis if the soil is too alkaline. It produces very few of the spiny fruits that can cause messes on walkways or injury to bare feet.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy, and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

More information on Liquidambar styraciflua.

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Tags:
#deciduous#specimen#native tree#salt tolerant#winter interest#fall interest#accent plant#upright form#columnar#deer resistant#frost tolerant#long lifespan#screening#vertical spaces#deciduous tree#border back#fall color yellow#urban conditions tolerant#wet soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#dry soils tolerant#fall color red#fall color orange#fall color orange-red#drought intolerant#fall color#erect#hardwood#narrow form#cultivar#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#specimen#native tree#salt tolerant#winter interest#fall interest#accent plant#upright form#columnar#deer resistant#frost tolerant#long lifespan#screening#vertical spaces#deciduous tree#border back#fall color yellow#urban conditions tolerant#wet soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#dry soils tolerant#fall color red#fall color orange#fall color orange-red#drought intolerant#fall color#erect#hardwood#narrow form#cultivar#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Liquidambar
    Species:
    styraciflua
    Family:
    Altingiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Landscape
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    North America
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Dimensions:
    Height: 50 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 5 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Columnar
    Dense
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    This cultivar will produce fruits, but it can be erratic, and the quantity is much less than the species. The fruits are small, round, woody, spiky balls that contain seeds. In the fall, the fruits drop to the ground but are less messy than the species.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    Inconspicuous yellow-green flowers bloom in the spring.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Palmatifid
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are dark green, glossy, simple, alternate, star-shaped, and have 5 points.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    The dark gray-brown bark is grooved. As the tree matures, the bark will develop deep furrows.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    New wood is reddish-brown in color and can be covered with corky 'wings'.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Vertical Spaces
    Walkways
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Barrier
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Screen/Privacy
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Dry Soil
    Salt
    Urban Conditions
    Wind
    Problems:
    Messy