Deciduous tree with yellow to red leaves in fall
One of few trees to lend autumn color to the Southern California landscape, liquidambar also is prized for its neat, upright silhouette and dense, deeply lobed, maple-like greenery. Opinion is divided on the Sputnik-shaped seed pods that appear in winter: Some people use them in wreath arrangements; others curse them as a nuisance that must be raked. Kids enjoy throwing them at anything that moves.
Although some gardening books warn that liquidambar must have a neutral, or definitely non-alkaline, soil and a monthly watering in the summer, it seems to thrive in spite of such worries--and often in the absence of such care. It won't do well in the desert, high or low, but it will grow and prosper in every other zone, rising to about 60 feet at maturity (although it gets much taller in its native Eastern United States).
Liquidambars look particularly fine when grouped as a screen or small grove, their foliage so thick we rarely can see the branches until the leaves fall. They make good street trees too, because their roots won't buckle sidewalks (though they will disrupt a lawn).