This section is from the book "An Illustrated Flora Of The Northern United States, Canada And The British Possessions Vol2", by Nathaniel Lord Britton, Addison Brown. Also available from Amazon: An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 Volume Set..
Large trees with resinous sap, simple alternate lobed petioled leaves, and small monoecious flowers in heads, the staminate clusters racemose, the pistillate ones usually solitary. Calyx and corolla of the staminate flowers none; stamens numerous; filaments short; anthers longitudinally dehiscent. Calices of the pistillate flowers confluent; petals none; anthers rudimentary; borne on the edge of the calyx; ovary partly inferior, 2-celled; ovules several or numerous, styles 2. Capsules 2-beaked, 2-valved at the summit, dry, hard, forming a dense spinose globular head. [Name Latin-Arabic referring to the fragrant sap.]
Liquidambar Styraciftua L. Sp. Pl. 999. 1753.
A forest tree, maximum height about 150o; bark very rough, branches usually winged with corky ridges. Twigs glabrous or slightly pubescent; leaves broader than long, 3'-9' wide, subcordate at base, deeply 3-7-lobed, glabrous above, often pubescent in the axils of the veins beneath, the lobes triangular-ovate, acute, sharply and finely serrate; sterile flower-clusters erect or spreading, conic, consisting of numerous small heads, greenish; fertile heads long-peduncled, at length drooping, borne near the base of the sterile; head of fruit about 1'-1 1/2' in diameter, the fertile seeds few, with numerous minute sterile ones.
In low woods, Connecticut and southern New York to Florida, Illinois, Missouri and Mexico. Wood hard, not strong, reddish brown; weight per cubic foot 37 lbs. Leaves fragrant when bruised, brilliant in autumn. Its gum, copal-balsam or copalm, used as a substitute for storax. Satin-walnut. Opossum-tree. Bilsted. Alligator-tree. White-gum. Liquidamber. April-May.