Common Name: American sweetgum, liquidambar
Scientific Name: Liquidambar styraciflua L.
Climate: Temperate and cold
Plant Description: It has green leaves sometimes with red and purple stems. It grows from one to three meters high. Achira is a large perennial, which lives more than two years, with many crowded rhizomes.
Cultivation: It should be planted in full sun or partial shade. American sweetgum can be reproduced by sowing seeds in autumn, by cuttings in summer or by layering in spring. The seeds are gathered in the autumn as soon as the fruits are ripe and they are open. It is recommended to refrigerate the seeds for 1 to 3 months before sowing. If there is no fridge it is possible to store them in any cold place in or outside the house.
It needs moisture in the soil, grows well in places where water is shallow, and needs frequent watering. It needs a lot of organic matter and humidity. It grows best in damp, acidic, clayey soil. The best are humid, well-drained sites, although it tolerates moderately drier soils. Doesn't like limited space. It does not need regular pruning.
The traditional way to harvest the resin is to make grooves in the tree, known as "huacas" which are 18 cm wide, seven cm high and five cm deep. The huacas are made at the beginning of the rainy season between April and June on full moon days, since it is in that season that more sweetgum resin is produced. The resin is harvested every four to six weeks. Each year about six harvests per tree can be carried out and this is repeated for between five and seven more years. The huacas achieve complete healing about five years after their last harvest. This capacity of regeneration makes the American Sweetgum tree a sustainable species that can be exploited to the full. An important fact is that this extraction process should only be carried out on trees that are more than 20 years old.
Uses: Ointment from American Sweetgum serves well to reduce inflammation, to fight skin diseases such as dryness, rash, scabies, hemorrhoids, and poor blood circulation, as an expectorant to remove phlegm, sore throat, cough, cold, asthma, bronchitis, cystitis, vaginal discharge, stroke or anti-parasitic.
The resin of this tree, which is very aromatic, is also used as incense, especially on the Day of the Dead.
The wood from this tree is used for firewood, charcoal and for construction. In addition, it is used in carpentry to make many things such as cabinets, boxes, drawers, veneers, wall coverings, doors and more.
Pests and Diseases: It is not very prone to parasites or diseases, but it can suffer from spider attacks, which cause burns on the tips of the leaves.
En español: Liquidambar