Sweet gum tree, very common in USA, is also native to Guatemala

As a child I spent much of my life in St Louis under the shade of a sweet gum tree in our back yard. Thus I was very surprised half a century later to learn that the same species is common in the Highlands of Guatemala. It requires a certain climate, so would not be common in El Peten or other Lowland areas. We have one sweet-gum tree tree in our Mayan ethnobotanical garden in Guatemala City, elevation 1500 meters. It is about 7 years old, as tall as a three story house, but we have never noticed it blooming. Perhaps this is not its favorite climate?

Many articles on incense list an incense named estoraque. So I assumed this came from the “estoraque tree” until we found out from bibliography research by biology university student Melany Soria that there were many many different trees in Guatemala with the name of estoraque. And, many of these also can produce incense.

So now we are unsure which “estoraque tree” is used by the Mayan people of today. Articles which list estoraque are surprisingly candid about the author’s lack of documentation of which tree actually produces this incense. In other words, we are not the only botanical team who is not yet able to learn which tree produces the incense.

So we are working on this issue. It is a common headache in the botany of Mesoamerica that the same common names are applied to so many different species.

Introductory bibliography on sweet-gum tree of Mesoamerica
Liquidambar styraciflua; Medicinal and as Incense

  • ALBERTI-MANZANARES, Pilar
  • 2006
  • Los aportes de las mujeres rurales al conocimiento de plantas medicinales en México. Análisis de género. Agricultura, Sociedad y Desarrollo. Vol. 3. No. 2. Pages 139-152.
  • CONABIO
  • 1753
  • Liquidambar styraciflua L. In, Species Plantarum. Vol. 2. No. 999. Pages 134 - 137.
  • CORDERO, J. and D. H. BOSHER (editors)
  • 2003
  • Liquidambar styraciflua. In, Árboles de Centroamérica. OFI-CATIE. Pages 659-662.
  • CORDERO, J. and D. H. BOSHER (editors)
  • 2003
  • Anexo 6, nombres comunes. In, Árboles de Centroamérica. OFI-CATIE. Pages 1045-1066.
  • MATA Amado, Guillermo
  • 2012
  • Incensarios de mango, breves consideraciones. In XXV Simposio de Investigaciones Arqueológicas en Guatemala. Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, Instituto de Antropología e Historia y Asociación Tikal, Guatemala. Pages 1309-1317.
  • McCARTER, P. S. and C. E. HUGHES
  • 1984
  • Liquidambar styraciflua L.- A Species of Potential for the Tropics. Commonw. For. Rev. Vol. 63. No. 3. Pages 207-216.
  • MORRIS, Ashley B., ICKERT-BOND, Stefanie M., BURKE BRUNSON, D., SOLTIS, Douglas E. and Pamela S. SOLTIS
  • 2008
  • Blackwell Publishing Ltd Phylogeographical structure and temporal complexity in American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua; Altingiaceae). Molecular Ecology. Vol. 17. Pages 3889–3900
  • RASGADO Bonilla, Ftima Azucena
  • 2014
  • Caracterización fotoquímica de la resina de Liquidambar styraciflua L. Instituto de Enseñanza e Investigación en Ciencias Agrícolas. México. 108 pages.
  • PIJOAN, Manuel
  • 2003
  • Medicina y etnobotánica aztecas. Etnofarmacia. Vol. 22. No. 9.
  • VILLAR Anleu, Luis
  • 2005
  • Guatemala: árboles mágicos y notables. Editorial Evergráficas, S. L. 143 pages.

Bibliography Part II:

  • Web pages with helpful material on Liquidambar styraciflua

Tipos de funciones de los inciensos

http://biblio3.url.edu.gt/Tesario/2012/08/08/Colominas-Celeste.pdf
En el bosque de Rancho de Teja al pie de la sierra Parraxquin conectada con el Lago de Atitlán, departamento de Sololá  sitios sagrados, en donde se quema pom, estoraque e incienso y 16 se encienden muchas velas.

http://biblioteca.usac.edu.gt/EPS/07/07_2815.pdf

http://biblioteca.usac.edu.gt/tesis/14/14_0415.pdf
Formas de uso prehispánico de las plantas medicinales

www.chimaltenango.org/municipios/region-suroccidental/totonicapan/momostenango.html
Momostenango en la fiesta de Vakxcixib Batz, los ocho hilos u ocho monos queman incienso, estoraque y candelas. Los Chozabales.Éstos son sitios sagrados, en donde se quema pom, estoraque e incienso.

www.educacion-holistica.org/notepad/documentos/Incienso/tipos%20de%20Incienso.pdf
Estoraque como incienso y perfume.

www.etsy.com/es/listing/126596704/american-storax-corteza-liquidambar
Tienda en Texas que procesa el Liquidambar styraciflua para incienso. Da datos importantes de Guatemala y la cultura maya

www.dobbernationloves.com/2011/12/09/travel-to-chichicastenango-guatemala/

http://hollirichey.com/2010/11/07/sweetgum-used-to-treat-hypertension/

www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=c116

www.opepa.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=554&Itemid=30 Good info.

www.quiminet.com/articulos/liquidambar-styraciflua-sus-tres-usos-mas-comunes-2601074.htm
Liquidambar como bálsamo styrax o estoraque


 

Updated September 22, 2015.
First posted September 1, 2015.