sweet gum tree balls

angietrbrMarch 2, 2008

how do i get my seet gum tree to stop producing these spiky balls. they are bothersome to my children and dogs.

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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

You don't. Have to rake repeatedly or remove the tree.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 2:27PM
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picea(6A Cinci- Oh)

Chainsaw, that was my way of dealing with one by my driveway.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 2:36PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Sweet gum is host to many of the big, beautiful silk moths, especially used by luna moths, like in the Lunesta commercial. The seeds are eaten by many birds - ever seen birds up in your tree in the fall picking at the balls? By the time the balls fall to the ground, the seeds are usually gone.
I'd leave it - Mother Nature will thank you! :)
Sherry

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 3:06PM
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pineresin

Ditto to Sherry. Well said!

Resin

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 3:36PM
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alabamatreehugger(8)

Buy yourself one of those outdoor vacuum machines to suck them up. : )

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 8:13PM
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Fledgeling_(4b SD)

You could remove and replace with a selection that does not produce them, such as 'Rotundiloba' (with almost fig-like foliage also, I think its a really neat selection)

Here is a link that might be useful: 'Rotundiloba' foliage

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 8:55PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I saw luna moths frequently before the hurricane, but it wiped out ALL the big silk moths here. Some nice people sent me eggs for various big moths, including lunas. I offered the caterpillars just about everything that grows on my property, and they preferred the sweetgum to everything else. They should emerge from their cocoons in the next few months - here they are in their early instars last year eating sweetgum leaves -

Sherry

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 9:44PM
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jqpublic(7b/8a Wake County NC)

Hehe...like everyone else said you can't. Thats like making an oak tree stop producing acorns. That's how they make babies.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 2:06AM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

Well, angietrbr, there's a member here named Lucky_P that should have some cogent commentary on your situation.

I'm pretty sure most folks know he runs a spay/neuter clinic for Liquidambar (he's a vet), but sometimes claims they have to be humanely destroyed. Other folks assume he's just nuts with his fetish for all things Carya, Quercus, and Juglans. He means well, though a little narrowly "focused".

I'd land in the pineresin and misssherry camp - your sweetgum is just misunderstood. Besides being caterpillar snack and bird feed, sweetgum makes a wonderful colorful fall show. They can grow vigorously and with abandon if sited well (they like dampness). Those annoying spiky seed capsules are great artillery for kids, and non-toxic to boot.

A few stiff rakings or timely vacuums (as mentioned above) will resolve matters. As with any living thing, sweetgum has its weaknesses and its strengths. Craft your lifestyle around this knowledge.

misssherry, those are some humdinger larvae! How do they rate as bait (against the big old catalpa sphinx moth caterpillars)?

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 7:17AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

ahh.. pshaw ... with all due respect to each opinion ....

its all about YOUR SANITY ....

if it bothers you .. be done with it.. a liberal application of a running chainsaw.. at or about ground level.. applied with malice and aforethought.. will be highly recommended ...

do NOT let the guilt police dictate your mental health ... as i am sure you will replace it with more than one plant.. net zero to the earth ...

i mean really .. if your garden was covered in poison ivy vines... would you leave it ... just because some birds eat and spread the seeds ????

good luck

ken

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 9:05AM
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jimtnc(7b Raleigh tttf)

Yep, I'm with Ken on this one. Especially if those sweet gums are close to your house. I had a number of them that I had cut down, primarily because they were too close. Those balls are a pain, but not near the dangerous situation that no one has mentioned yet, that these trees (mine were up around 90-100') will also break off limbs way up on the tree...huge limbs...and parts of the upper trunk that have been dangerous situations many times around my house.

Nope, do what you have to do, within reason.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 9:23AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

It's your tree, do with it what you want. I don't mean to be the guilt police, but the presence of spiny balls on the ground seems to me like such a minor inconvenience in the general scheme of things! :)
Sherry

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 9:49AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Viburnum, I don't fish, but I doubt they're as good for bait as catalpa worms or people would be using them. The caterpillars get fat as they grow, probably too fat for a fish's mouth, and so ugly they're cute!

Sherry

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 9:59AM
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cascadians

I love sweet gum trees! So big and majestic, such welcome lovely shade in summer, such radiant long-lasting fall colors! I've planted 4, 2 straight, 1 morraine, and 1 variegated. They're all still too young for the spikey balls but when those come I'll simple rake them up. Very little work for the benefits of the magnificent sweet gum tree!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 4:53PM
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lucky_p

Bwaa-ha-ha. Here comes Lucky_P and his plantist tendencies. LOL.
VV's right, I'm the sworn enemy of L.styraciflua. Yes, I'm from Alabama, and no, these shoes don't hurt my feet, but those d@mned sweetgum balls are exceedingly painful to step upon when barefoot, and I've sprained my ankle more than once and bent crankshafts on lawnmowers when tripping over or hitting those honking big surface roots they throw up.
Y'all can have all of 'em you want, but on my property, they're plantae non grata.
Give me a mannerly pecan or hickory or oak. If you're into caterpillars, the Carya will support the Hickory Horned Devil(Regal moth cat.).

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 12:48PM
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jeff_al

i recall the family using them around christmas as decorative things combined with holly and other seasonal items. they painted them gold and they looked nice in combinations with the magnolia leaves, berries, pine cones and glass ornaments.
get the kids involved in crafts and clean up the yard at the same time! ;-)

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 2:06PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Speaking of luna moths, my first one has emerged for 2008!

I love hickory trees, too, Lucky, as a matter of fact I planted lots of hickory nuts on my property last fall - can't wait 'til they come up! I raised a few hickory horned devils last year - they've got to be the the scariest looking caterpillars in the country!

I fed mine pecan leaves from a young seedling tree that was making lots of new growth late in the year, but they eat a variety of tree leaves, including persimmon, hickories and sweet gum - yes that rascally sweet gum! :)
Sherry

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 6:06PM
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cascadians

Here's one of my baby sweetgums taken last Halloween, front yard 'swimming pool' with my partner as Professor McGonagall ... brilliant colors that last months. Can't wait for it to get huge! Lots of water where it is, and a Morraine nearby.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 6:33PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Hehehe! I love the fall color on your sweetgum!
Sherry

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 7:10PM
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cascadians

Sherry, your insects are gorgeous and very interesting! If you ever travel this way bring some -- there's enough leaves for everything. I could never ever cut down a healthy tree. Trees are God's greatest gift and blessing for the planet. They provide shade, food, interest, fragrance, color, air filtering, habitat, flowers, attract rain, and are continual reminders of the Creator. When I die I will finally graduate permanently from Earth and go someplace glorious and heavenly where all love nurture and respect TREES. So happy to see you also appreciate trees.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 7:18PM
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basic(Z4a)

Excellent pics, Sherry. That luna moth is one beautiful creature. As for the hickory horned devil, I'll bet its got a great personality. ;)

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 7:26PM
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arbordave (SE MI)

There is a product available that's advertised to control sweetgum balls - Florel growth regulator. I don't have experience using it myself, but would like to know from others if it has been effective for them?

There are other seedless varieties in addition to Rotundiloba - Cherokee and Happidaze are also seedless (or nearly so).

(Sherry - I also enjoyed the pics. The other big silkmoths - cecropia, polyphemus, promethea - are fascinating as well!)

Here is a link that might be useful: Florel Growth Regulator

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 8:10PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Basic, hickory horned devils may have "good personalities" but they become beautiful adult moths, too! None of mine have emerged so far this spring, but then they're the once a year types, not multiples each year like lunas. Here's a picture I made of a regal moth a few years ago before the hurricane - I'm hoping to help restore the big moths to this area -

Trees are so important to SO much wildlife, arbordave! I've got prometheas, imperials, ios, and cecropias yet to emerge this year - didn't get any polyphemus eggs last year, maybe I will this year.
I'm glad to hear you're as big a tree lover as I am Cascadians!
Sherry

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 9:14PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Angietrbr, I have to agree with Ken on this issue, but since there are LOADS of sweet gums in my neighborhood - and on the property away from the house, I don't feel guilty about pulling out every seedling that I see in my flower beds or mulch - the parent trees are far enough away that I don't get a lot of the gum balls near the house. If you can't stand the gum balls, cut down the tree.

I know nothing about any of the growth regulators, but since I have trouble remembering other annual tasks, never mind timing them, and am also reluctant to spend money on things like that, I think I, personally, wouldn't use them. As well, while I think they are harmless to your kids and pets, I would double-check thoroughly on that as well - there are enough chemicals around that people and kids are inadvertently exposed to without adding in harmful ones.

Missherry, your moths are beautiful. I get an occasional Luna on a window screen in the summer, and am always in awe!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 9:44PM
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alabamatreehugger(8)

For less than the price of removing the tree you can buy one of these neat machines...

Here is a link that might be useful: Snapper

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 9:50PM
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pam_chesbay(VA 8a/7b)

Sherry: Your photos are lovely. I have questions about how you get such a variety of moths and butterflies to hang out at your place. This isn't accidental. I know you create habitat for them.

Over the years, we often sailed to a favorite island a few miles from here - a long sandy island with shrubs, goldenrod, grass. After the hurricane, there isn't much left of it.

We made a trip in October when the monarch butterflies were migrating - tens of thousands of them were on the island.

As evening fell, they settled on bushes and seemed to fold their bodies under their wings.

The island was a great destination. We could take the dogs with us - all three dogs fit into a two person kayak! When we anchored off the island, they would dive off the boat and spend the night on the island.

When I finish planting these seedlings, I need to mosey over to the butterfly forum.

Pam

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 11:00PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

That island trip looks absolutely fantastic, Pam! I've always wanted to make a trip like that to Cat Island off the MS coast. The picture of the monarchs is great - I've never seen them in their great clusters.
There were already lots of butterflies and moths on my property when we bought it, because natural habitats give you that. I've added butterflies by planting the host plants of butterflies that only rarely visited before, like giant and pipevine swallowtails - now I have jillions of them, because they're laying eggs on their host plants. Big moths are much less specific about which tree they use than butterflies, who generally stick to a specific plant family - there are exceptions, like tiger swallowtails, who use trees from several families.
I've had so much fun raising butterflies and moths - I'm in my second childhood! :)
Sherry

    Bookmark   March 5, 2008 at 11:01AM
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pam_chesbay(VA 8a/7b)

Sherry:

Yes, when you learn how to grow things, you open the door to learning so many other interesting things. When you write about the butterflies and moths, your pleasure is infectious. I do hope you'll have the chance to make a trip to Cat Island (is it still there?)

As to the thousands of monarchs - I've never seen anything like it before or since. The island had vast amounts of goldenrod that they feed on when migrating. They seem to like most fall blooming plants - tickseed, asters. I'm looking forward to having time to work on projects like butterfly habitat.

Can you recommend a good book or two?

Thanks to the wonderful folks at the office, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel with the seedlings. The staff came for 3 hours yesterday and today, we all dug holes and planted trees - at least 600. The weather was sunny and warm, just perfect. I still have about 300 (mostly bald cypresses, LLPs, AWCs) to plant in groves, and a few others for fun (Acer saccharum var. floridana, Oxydendrum arboreum, Carpinus caroliniana, various dogwoods, etc). I need more broadleaf evergreens. I'm looking foe small magnolias and digging up wax myrtles in the woods.

Pam

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 6:51PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

That's really something that you've planted SO many trees, Pam! I know you'll enjoy watching them all grow.
I think by far the best book for a butterfly beginner would be The Life Cycles of Butterflies by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards. They're brother and sister, and Judy posts on the Butterfly Forum occasionally. The book explains the basics of butterflies, gives examples of their host plants and some of their favorite nectar plants in the authors' area (Kentucky) and has some of the best pictures of eggs and caterpillars out there. Her book includes just about all the butterflies you'll find in the coastal Virginia area. I'm sure its available at Amazon.com, and you might find it at a local book store.
I've been weeding and pruning my garden today - hopefully, I'll get it finished soon!
Sherry

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 11:22PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I put the luna moth in its cage on the front porch with the cage door opened, and now it's coupled with a yellowy colored one! Any moth people out there who've ever dealt with big moth eggs, retrieving them and such? Please help me here!!
Sherry

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 9:42AM
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pam_chesbay(VA 8a/7b)

Thanks, Sherry. I found it at Abebooks - they have a huge selection of books, and are usually less expensive than Amazon.

Here is a link that might be useful: Abebooks

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 6:45PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Thanks for the link, Pam - I don't remember how much I paid for my book, but I'm sure it was more than Abe is asking. I bookmarked Abe Books, being the big reader that I am!
Sherry

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 7:53PM
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tr33scompany(NC 7b)

Knock them down pre-seed release post them on eBay or ship to me.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 2:15PM
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najoba(8b)

Don't you dare cut it down! If you do, it will come back with a vengeance ---- 10 trunks where one originally grew. You'd have to dig it up, if you could. And so far, I haven't found anything that will kill it. Enjoy it -- it puts out a lot of shade and the leaves are beautiful in spring, summer or fall.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 1:02AM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Najoba is right insofar as the stump and roots will probably sprout and try to regrow. BUT, you can deal with that - either get the tree service who cuts it down, to grind out the stump, which will leave only those sprouts from the roots, which a lawnmower will take down, until the energy in the roots is exhausted, or else buy a bottle of a woody herbicide - Brush-B-Gone or the like, although plain Round Up will work, just may need to be repeated - and paint the edges of the stump, or the ends of any sprouts after you clip them off. Use a disposable paintbrush, and be careful of drips.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 12:10PM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

I'm with Pineresin and Sherry,let mature be. This is a place for tree lovers not tree haters after all

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 12:15PM
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gardenbud(z6b PA)

Hey...I'm supposed to be studying for a Hort exam..and sweet gum is one of the tress. You guys had me in stitches with all your pics.

Gardenbud

    Bookmark   October 18, 2008 at 3:57PM
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pinetree30(Sierra Westside)

Three cheers for misssherry!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2008 at 4:15PM
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