The chewing gum that is popularly used as candy, dental hygiene, stress relief and bubble blowing is often made from a special juice that is contained within the chewing gum tree. Not only does this chewing gum tree have many uses, but the tree is also considered ornamental and is extremely hardy in tropical regions. Only cold weather seems to stop this tree.
The official name for the chewing gum tree is the sapodilla. This tree can grow up to 100 feet tall. The leaves have a glossy look and are dark green. The flowers are bell-shaped and are so small that they are almost not noticed by many onlookers. The tree often has a pyramid shape.
This tree produces a thick juice that is used to make chewing gum. The tree trunk is cut and the juice then drips down the side of the tree trunk where it is collected in bags. The juice, called chicle, is mixed with corn syrup, glycerin, sugar and flavoring, which is then boiled. Then what's left is dried and cut into squares.
In addition to being used as a source of one of the primary ingredients of chewing gum, the chewing gum tree is also popular for landscaping purposes because it is considered attractive and because it is an evergreen. These trees also produce fruit that are used as desserts. These fruits are described as being sweet with a peach or brown sugar flavor to them. The wood is very sturdy and can be used to make products such as flooring. The bark is used in the Philippines to color sails and fishing wires.
Though the chewing gum tree is native to Central America and South America, the tree can now be found in the West Indies, India and Florida. These trees are very vulnerable to weather below 30 degrees, especially with the younger trees, and must be protected during cold spells. The tree can survive in disintegrated limestone and also survives well in light clay soil, diabase, sand or lateritic gravel. These trees do not survive well in poorly drained soils. However, fortunately, these trees survive very well in droughts.
Pests and Diseases
Chewing gum trees are mostly very resistant to pests and diseases. Insects that might be able to harm chewing gum trees are bark-borers, mealybugs and galechid caterpillars. Leaf fungal spot can cause flowers to not bloom on some parts of the chewing gum tree.