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  • Writer's pictureJenny Lynn Keller

Friend or Foe?

After sweet gum trees shed brilliant red star-shaped leaves in the fall, their reputation takes a nose dive. Well, more like a ground dive when the trees’ funky-shaped fruit dries up and drops everywhere across the country. Forget the trees’ past uses in chewing gum and adhesives. Overlook medicinal contributions today and for centuries. Disregard decorative praise from carpenters and craft makers. The layer of prickly gumballs across our yards earns the tree a two-thumbs down—especially if you or your pet step on a ball and turn a ankle or puncture a paw. Been there, dealt with both, no fun either time. What’s the solution? Grin and bear it or cut the sucker down? A gardening friend suggests the better option of planting “Rotundiloba,” a sterile cultivar producing no gumballs. Foe becomes a friend, and we all win.

Speaking of gumballs and chewing gum, what’s your favorite flavor?


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