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Economically valuable sweet-gum trees: Taxonomy and nine new combinations

Date:
December 17, 2013
Source:
Pensoft Publishers
Summary:
Trees in the sweet-gum family Altingiaceae are well-known for their quality timber, use as ornamentals, the source of styrax, and from Chinese medicine. The three previously recognized genera Liquidambar, Altingia and Semiliquidambar have been puzzling botanists for a while due to the morphological similarities between the different genera, which makes their separation and description a challenge. A new taxonomic synopsis provides a new analysis including nine new combinations.
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A researcher climbs to harvest inflorescences of Liquidambar siamensis in Bokor National Park, Cambodia. The inset image shows the prominent drip tips on the leaves of L. siamensis and the obconical fruits.
Credit: Richard Bond; CC-BY 4.0

The sweet-gum family Altingiaceae is a small group of wind-pollinated trees that produce hard, woody fruits that contain numerous seeds. This widespread tree family has been puzzling botanists for a while, due to its complicated taxonomic structure, and the morphological similarities between the different genera which makes their separation and description a challenge. Best known for their biogeographic intercontinental disjunction between E Asia and E North America, recent molecular analysis have shown that Altingia and Semiliquidambar are nested within Liquidambar.

A new taxonomic synopsis, published in the open access journal PhytoKeys, formally transfers all Altingia and Semiliquidambar taxa to Liquidambar, which has nomenclatural priority and provides a new analysis including nine new combinations.

Traditionally classified into members with a predominantly temperate distribution (Liquidambar), those with a largely tropical to subtropical distribution (Altingia) are also presented in the new study, including the taxonomic enumeration and distribution of 15 recognized species based on studies of 1,500 specimens from 24 herbaria throughout the distributional range of the taxa.

Despite the difficulties in their taxonomy, sweet gum trees are in fact widely distributed and well known, due to their varied uses by people. They are valued for their high quality timber and they produce fragrant resin (styrax). Some species are also cultivated as ornamentals, while others are locally highly prized for the roots and bark used in traditional Chinese medicine. Some species are local endemics and Liquidambar chingii is listed as near-threatened by the IUCN.


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Pensoft Publishers. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stefanie Ickert-Bond, Jun Wen. A taxonomic synopsis of Altingiaceae with nine new combinations. PhytoKeys, 2013; 31: 21 DOI: 10.3897/phytokeys.31.6251

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Pensoft Publishers. "Economically valuable sweet-gum trees: Taxonomy and nine new combinations." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217123905.htm>.
Pensoft Publishers. (2013, December 17). Economically valuable sweet-gum trees: Taxonomy and nine new combinations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217123905.htm
Pensoft Publishers. "Economically valuable sweet-gum trees: Taxonomy and nine new combinations." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217123905.htm (accessed September 1, 2015).

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