Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

When Do Sweet Gum Trees Drop Balls?

...
Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Native across much of eastern North America, the sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) produces hundreds of golf ball-sized seed pods or capsules annually. Orange-brown and with sharp, short spines, they litter lawns and sidewalks, making a nuisance and potential safety hazard.

Time Frame

Heaviest drop of sweetgum balls occurs from mid to late fall. The foliage drops and reveals a tree silhouette with seed balls still dangling. Over the fall and winter, they progressively drop and by early spring the branches are bare and reveal the new leaf growth.

Warning

The dry, hard and tough fibers in the seed balls are slow to decompose. If littering a lawn, they become projectiles from a lawnmower chute and are not comfortable to encounter barefoot.

Fun Facts

Botanically, the sweetgum's balls are spheres of fused capsules. Colloquially, Americans dub them sticky balls, itchy balls, monkey balls, space bugs, gum balls and ankle twisters.

Related Articles

Facts About the Gumball Tree
Facts About the Gumball Tree
Trees With Spiky Balls
Trees With Spiky Balls
What Does a Tulip Tree Look Like?
What Does a Tulip Tree Look Like?
Shade Trees With Beans
Shade Trees With Beans
How Fast Do Poplar Trees Grow?
How Fast Do Poplar Trees Grow?
Is Canadian Hemlock Deer Resistant?
Is Canadian Hemlock Deer Resistant?
Eucalyptus Trees in Mexico
Eucalyptus Trees in Mexico
Types of Prairie Grass
Types of Prairie Grass
Hardy Shade Trees for Indiana
Hardy Shade Trees for Indiana
Fast Growing Trees in North Carolina
Fast Growing Trees in North Carolina
African Tree Names
African Tree Names
Do Pine Trees Have Pollen?
Do Pine Trees Have Pollen?
Garden Guides
×