what is sweet gum wood used for

what is sweet gum wood used for

Sweetgum ball (Terry W. Johnson)

By Terry W. Johnson

You’re reading: what is sweet gum wood used for

I can bear in mind years in the past that I used to be stunned to listen to a person say, “The one good sweetgum is a lifeless sweetgum.” Though I knew that sweetgum had its detractors, till then I hadn’t realized that some of us passionately hated the tree.

Over time I’ve typically thought of that assertion. Lastly I made a decision that it was time for me defend this too typically maligned Georgia native. With that in thoughts, let me share with you the the reason why I like sweetgums.

Clearly, there are various the reason why some owners do not. The criticism I hear most frequently is that the tree is messy. Being a deciduous tree, every autumn it litters our lawns with a quilt of colourful leaves that, within the minds of many, have to be raked up.

Nonetheless, that’s only a portion of the mess the tree creates. Even a few of the owners who can take care of raking leaves don’t like coping with the hundreds of spike-laden fruits the timber additionally drop on their lawns. The state of affairs is acerbated by the truth that sweetgum balls could make strolling within the yard look like crossing a mine discipline. If that is not sufficient, the spiny fruits have been recognized to trigger folks to slide and switch an ankle.

The prickly fruits are known as gumballs, goblin balls, monkey balls and a lot of different colourful names.

Other people dislike the tree as a result of it would not make good firewood, since it’s troublesome to separate and rots rapidly. Likewise, some woodworkers aren’t keen on sweetgum as a result of the wooden is troublesome to dry straight and unsuitable for carpentry work.

However I’m within the camp that implies that, whereas these items could also be true, the sweetgum does have many redeeming traits.

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To start with, the sweetgum is definitely an essential timber tree. Among the many hardwoods that blanket Southern forests it’s second in manufacturing solely to the oaks. Sweetgum wooden is used to make veneer, plywood, cupboards and furnishings.

The gum from these timber has been used as chewing gum and even employed to concoct medicines and salves to treatment a wide range of illnesses, deal with wounds and function an essential ingredient in adhesives.

At one time, the tree’s twigs have been even used as toothbrushes.

And what would Mom Nature’s fall foliage extravaganza be like with out the sweetgum? You’d be laborious pressed to discover a tree that shows extra lovely fall foliage. The colours worn by the star-shaped sweetgum leaves appear to originate from the pallet of a grasp painter. Leaves range from maroon to vibrant pink and from pink to orange and yellow. Sarcastically, evidently the sweetgums rising on the poorest soils typically placed on the most effective autumn present.

In spring, the sweetgum offers a supply of nectar for the ruby-throated hummingbird and different nectar feeders. You additionally may be stunned to be taught that sweetgum is a number plant for greater than 30 species of butterflies and moths. This checklist consists of two of our largest and most gorgeous moths, the luna and promethea.

Though I’m an ardent fan of the sweetgum’s fall foliage, the factor that I like most concerning the tree is its odd fruit – a 1- to 1 1/2-inch ball suspended on a slender stalk. Every fruit is definitely dozens of fruits which have fused collectively.

On shut inspection, you will note that the gumball’s spikes are organized in pairs. Apparently, the factors of the spikes in every pair level towards each other.

Because the balls dry, they flip from inexperienced to brown. Through the drying course of holes seem. Should you peer right into a recently-opened gap, you will note two winged seeds measuring solely a ¼- to a 1/3-inch lengthy. Every gumball will produce from 30-50 seeds. These seeds are dispersed by the wind and by animals.

Gazing at these tiny seeds you would possibly surprise what would eat such seeds. In fact, many birds and different wildlife love ’em. Would you consider the crop taken from a wooden duck was discovered to be full of greater than 1,000 sweetgum seeds? Why, even wild turkeys, mallards, mourning dove and quail dine on these tiny, nutritious morsels.

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On quite a few events I’ve seen many birds feasting on sweetgum seeds. Among the many species I’ve personally seen chowing down on them are red-winged blackbird, Carolina chickadee, dark-eyed junco, Carolina wren, chipping sparrow and northern cardinal. The checklist of birds that eat sweetgum seeds additionally consists of the likes of the purple finch, jap towhee, night grosbeak, pine siskin, yellow-bellied sapsucker, white-throated and white-crowned sparrow.

Sweetgum seeds are additionally eaten by mammals reminiscent of grey squirrels and jap chipmunks.

Nonetheless, by far I see American goldfinches consuming these seeds essentially the most typically. Many occasions I’ve watched flocks of American goldfinches descend on sweetgum timber festooned with seed-laden gumballs. As soon as the birds arrive, the feast is on.

In case you are clearing land to construct a home and occur upon a sweetgum, I hope that you’ll assume twice earlier than slicing it down. Should you take pleasure in colourful fall foliage, butterflies and moths, and birds, and if you will discover a spot for the tree in your panorama, accomplish that.

Must you minimize down a sweetgum and later determine to plant one other, remember that it takes 15-20 years for it to provide its first fruit.

Is the sweetgum a tree for all yards? No. The sheer measurement of a mature sweetgum (it might probably attain heights of 100 ft or extra) make it unsuitable for many small yards. Are they messy? Sure.

Nonetheless, in case your yard is massive sufficient to accommodate a big tree, the sweetgum may be simply what you want. It is going to present breathtaking fall coloration and shade. As well as, the sweetgum could be a worthwhile member of the various plant and animal neighborhood discovered simply outdoors your backdoor.

As for the gumballs, as soon as I spotted how worthwhile they’re to my wildlife neighbors, I do not appear to thoughts them as a lot as I as soon as did.

Terry W. Johnson is a former Nongame program supervisor with the Wildlife Assets Division, a yard wildlife skilled and govt director of The Environmental Assets Community, or TERN, buddies group of the division’s Nongame Conservation Part. (Permission is required to reprint this column.) Be taught extra about TERN, see earlier “Out My Backdoor” columns and browse Terry’s weblog, Yard Wildlife Connection.

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