Liquidamber, also known as sweet gum, are generally hardy and relatively pest free. They do have a few problems, though. Since this is a large tree, it is not likely that this is the result of poor planting. Check that their is not a lot of mulch piled around the base. This can choke the tree and lead to dieback, even on large trees.
Recent root disturbances can cause dieback. Any construction or trenching within the branch spread will cut enough roots that the tree may be affected. Girdling roots are another possibility. These are roots that encircle the base of the tree, and strangle it as they grow larger over the years.
Liquidamber also are susceptible to a disease known as phloem necrosis. It is a canker disease, meaning it infects the bark tissues and the sapwood underneath. Once enough of the bark is killed around a limb or trunk, the tree exhibits dieback of the branches above that point. The infected parts can be removed by pruning, if it doesn’t severely disfigure the tree. Keeping the tree healthy and free of stress is also important.
Find a good local certified arborist to check the tree. There may be other problems not mentioned here, and an on-site visit is the only way to find the cause of the problem. You can find a ISA Certified Arborist at the International Society of Arboriculture web site. Follow links to Find a Certified Arborist. There are many listed throughout the world on this site.
Russ Carlson, RCA, BCMA
Another problem with sweet gum is xyella fastidiosa.(bacterial leaf scorch)This is a virus better known with Pin Oak death. Bill
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