Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sweetgum, A Prickly Subject

Sweetgum Fall
Sweetgum Fall by ~ Bron ~, Flickr

I started thinking about sweetgum trees after a conversation on Facebook yesterday. It kind of bothered me because normally I'm a plant advocate (I have to keep quiet about my love of mimosa and tree of heaven!), but in this case I was more like devil's advocate.

I know the problems associated with invasive exotic plants; I dig them, pull them, or cut them at the base, whenever they make their way into my yard. But even these assertive ones (bullies?) are still plants, and plants are rather like children to me — I love them, whether they behave very well or not. There is always something good, something respectable, something interesting and amazing about every plant. Sometimes you just have to change your perspective to see it.

That being said, there are two camps where sweetgum is concerned, those who love the gorgeous fall color, unusual leaf shape, and interesting seed pods of a native deciduous tree, and those who have/had one too close to the house and step on the gumballs all year long. The fruits truly are a nuisance in the garden, causing twisted ankles and falls, leaving spiky splinters in hands and feet, and — given the way neighborhood boys slingshot them at each other — being responsible for any number of other mishaps and wounds.  "You'll shoot your eye out!" They aren't particularly kind to dogs' paws, either.

Because a mature tree can produce many bushels of these "gumballs," it's a tree better left in the woods to admire.

Sweetgum Balls Still on Tree
Sweetgum Balls Still on Tree by danjdavis, Flickr

6nov07: autumn colours-American Sweetgum.
American Sweetgum ~ guus timpers,  Flickr

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