IN THE FIELD: Sweetgum Seed Pods

While out on a walk late Saturday afternoon, I came across one of my favorite trees, commonly called the American Sweetgum. They are large species of tree, reaching upwards of 100 feet tall at maturity.

Sweetgums are one of the last trees to leaf out in the spring and one of the last to drop leaves in the fall. Its leaves have five to seven lobes similar in shape to a maple, and turn multiple shades of yellow, orange and red in the fall. It also bears prickly seed pods that attach themselves to animals and clothing. I suppose it is nature’s way of transporting seeds away from the host plant.

As children, my sisters and I would to collect the seed pods from a tree in my grandmother’s front yard. Our mother would create indoor arrangements, adding the pods to evergreen branches and twigs with berries, to surround a grouping of beeswax candles. She would also add them to her wreaths at Christmas time. And we kids would hide them in each other’s coat pockets for a prickly sibling surprise…

  1. December 19, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Wow! 100 feet tall, That is one tall tree. Out here we don’t have much in tall trees. In the desert west of here, you’d have to search for anything taller that eight feet probably. But, as your picture shows, there is beauty everywhere in nature.

    • December 20, 2011 at 8:48 am

      Yep that’s a big un…around here we are surrounded by trees that are all upwards of 60 feet tall. It takes quite a while before it feels like daytime because we can’t see the sun for a few hours after sunrise!

  2. December 19, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    The trees sound lovely … perhaps a photograph of one (or more) in the Spring? Funny story about the prickly pocket surprises 🙂

    • December 20, 2011 at 8:50 am

      They sure are gorgeous trees and I will fill the order for some shots of them in the spring…fall too! Pockets…ouch!

  3. December 19, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Great shot. When my kids were little we would gather them up and make a “prickly ball” (that’s what they called them) Christmas tree as a decoration. Hide them in sibling pockets, huh?

    • December 20, 2011 at 8:54 am

      I remember Mom giving us an order for some, a few, not too many etc. We would bring back 100’s for her. “Mom is this enough?” “Oh thank you kids for gathering up ALL of them…I do think two paper grocery bags should just about do it.”

  4. December 19, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    I adore Sweetgums, so this tree has made me smile. Thanks, David!

    • December 20, 2011 at 9:03 am

      You are welcome Katie and I am glad I could bring you a little of the east! I too think they are such a beautiful tree.

  5. Steve
    December 19, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Great shot David! The green background sure makes the seed pods stand out! Cheers!

    • December 20, 2011 at 9:06 am

      Thanks Steve, I figured the green grass would look a heck of a lot better than the macadam pathway that was nearby. Funny thing, this was the only grouping of three that was at eye level. All the rest were either singles or doubles!

  6. Nandini
    December 20, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Wow, I love this shot! And a great fun story… childhood was fun, indeed. 🙂 🙂

    • December 20, 2011 at 9:08 am

      Thanks Nandini, childhood was indeed fun…although sometimes I still do act like a kid! That;s something we should all do!

      • December 20, 2011 at 11:41 am

        🙂 🙂 Yes, I think so too!

  7. December 20, 2011 at 8:58 am

    I love your photo, thanks for telling as little about the sweetgum seed pods as well. It is always great to see good photography, but a little story is nice too………

  8. December 20, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Thanks Janice, I always have to say something even though they say a picture is worth a 1000 words…whoever they are. Seriously, I also think a little story is a good thing…makes it more fun and inviting. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  9. December 20, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Wonderful photograph dear David, and talks directly to my heart… Thank you, with my love, nia

    • December 21, 2011 at 8:32 am

      Thank you Nia, I am glad you enjoyed it!

  10. December 20, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    So much nostalgia in one photo! Isn’t it amazing how small things like that, or just a photo of it, can bring out so many memories 🙂 Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • December 21, 2011 at 8:36 am

      It sure is amazing what will trigger the old memory banks. Teri from has been posting her favorite Christmas decorations she had as a little girl. Talk about bringing back memories! We even played with the same toys as kids!

  11. December 21, 2011 at 8:45 am

    What a beautiful image David! I didn’t know that ‘Sweetgums are one of the last trees to leaf out in the spring and one of the last to drop leaves in the fall’ 😉

    • December 27, 2011 at 2:06 pm

      They are such a beautiful tree that it is worth the wait in the spring and fall (which is glorious) for that matter. A few oaks and beech trees still have a few of their leaves here.

  12. December 27, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Sweetgums are native in eastern Texas but here in Austin people sometimes plant them for the fall color that you mentioned, and that I remember stopping to photograph a couple of autumns ago. As your picture shows, the seed balls are fun to play with too.

    Steve Schwartzman

  13. December 27, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Hey Steve! Sweetgums are right up near the top of my list along with sugar maples for color. As kids, we used to get into a lot of mischief with the seed balls too!

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