Friday, October 28, 2011

Shades of Autumn--Sweetgum

I know of a lot of people who detest this tree, but this Missouri native is one of my favorites....  It's a tall (up to 100 feet) symmetrical beauty that looks great in any setting.  In the fall, its leaves can go through the entire spectrum of colors--green to yellow-red-orange and purple.... 

Here's why the tree sometimes has a bad reputation--its infamous hard spiky gum balls....  This fruit turns from green to brown as they ripen during the fall.  When they start dropping to the ground in late winter they can become a major annoyance to some and at times cause pain or bodily injury, i.e. don't walk barefoot under a Sweet Gum tree. 

These gum balls are, however:   a valuable food source for wildlife, a great fire-starter, a garden mulch, a drainage source (add a layer to the bottom of a pot/container), a slug deterrent (circle them around plants), a craft staple (crafty people love them to make ornaments or wreaths), an easy bird feeder (coat them in peanut butter and birdseed) and--
they don't appear until the tree is 20-30 years old!  


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