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!  


  1. A lovely tree Becks, perfect for the birds.

    I can imagine standing on one of those seed balls - ouch!

  2. Your photos are beautiful and I really appreciate your information on the gum balls. I love learning new fun things about Nature! Barefoot Mama

  3. Very pretty fall color tree! I don't think I've seen these in upstate NY where I live but that doesn't mean we don't have them.

  4. Great photos, that third one is just lovely. And you know what, I love learning something every time I visit your blog to comment for the challenge :)

    Thanks for taking part again in the Shades of Autumn Photo Challenge!

  5. I've been poked by them before! Interesting fact that they aren't produced until the tree is so old. I agree with Satakieli - your posts are always educational! :o)

  6. The colours of those leaves are amazing! I don't think I've ever heard of this tree before.

  7. We have three Sweet Gums growing in our yard. I won't say they are my favorite tree, but hey, a tree is a tree and I'm not going to cut them down just because they don't happen to be a walnut or oak. The Sweet Gum out by our garden is a magnificent old shade tree. Of course, I cuss its roots for intruding into some of our garden beds, but I'm not going to remove the tree. I had no idea it took a Sweet Gum 20-30 years before it produced Sweet Gum balls.

    Have you ever heard Sweet Gum seeds fall? It requires a very special day in early spring – unseasonably warm, sunny and the gentlest of breezes. The Sweet Gum balls open and the tiny seeds within fall to the ground producing a very faint “sizzling” sound. Most years the Sweet Gum balls open on a sunny and windy day and the sound of their falling is drowned out by the wind.

  8. Unbelievably lovely. Purple leaves? Wow! This Sweet Gum Tree is a work of art!

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