While we are a little further north than its native range (which extends into Southeast Missouri), I thought it worthwhile to highlight the Sweet Gum tree. Many of the Sweet Gum trees are reaching their peak in fall color. It’s worth the trip to places like Bellefontaine Cemetery if you have a chance to get out before the rain hits on Monday and brings down more leaves. They have a lot of these trees!
Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is considered a nuisance to many because of the spiky gum balls it drops each year. While these can be cleaned up relatively easy with devices such as the Nut Wizard, gum balls make this tree a candidate to be planted away from buildings and particularly away from walkways and outdoor entertaining areas, such as patios. The scent of the Sweet Gum tree is a pleasant aroma, especially strong in late-spring/mid-summer. This is emitted from its liquid amber resin.
Sweet Gums have beautiful lush green leaves which turn to yellows, oranges, deep reds, and purples in the fall. The wood has been used, second to oaks, as a leading furniture wood. The gum which can be harvested from the tree has been used as chewing gum and also for medicinal purposes. (Always consult a professional before ingesting plant materials from the wild.) This tree can get up to 130ft tall and thrives in the sun with wet soil conditions. Wildlife benefit: Gum balls attract several bird and mammal species and the trees are used for nesting sites and cover.