Tuesday, November 25, 2008

That Hurt You A Lot More Than It Hurt Me!


Back when our girls were in Junior High School, they were required to do leaf collections. When I was their age, it was a bug collection that our science teacher wanted and no one was more excited than I was when I found a Buffalo Treehopper (Stictocephala bisonia). What a cool bug! I found it in our neighbor's huge garden. In fact, I found most of my collection there.

I never had to do the leaf collection, so it was kind of fun, running the girls all over kingdom come, trying to find all the different ones on their list. A park in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, went a long way towards helping Jenna find hers. She had a tryout for a travel softball team at Harrison Smith Park, where they have many of their trees labeled.

During the course of her leaf collection, I was the one who fell in love with various trees and their leaf shapes, and made a list of those that I wanted to acquire - Ginkgo, Tulip Poplar, and Sweet Gum. The Sweet Gum (Liquidambar sp.) was the first to put roots down here at Our Little Acre. It was about about four feet tall when we planted it and the next few years saw little growth. It appeared to be merely existing and finally, one summer the leaves just dried up and fell off, so due to its myriad of past problems, we figured the tree had died.

Romie tried to dig it up, but it had too many roots and it wasn't going to be easy, so he decided to just cut it off low on the trunk and get to the rest of it sometime later. Well, you know how that goes. I don't remember how much later it was - maybe even the next spring - but when he did get back to it, he called me over to have a look. That tree had started growing from below where he'd cut it!

We decided to let it go and see what it would do and what it has done over the last few years is grow into a nice tree. It's much nicer than it ever was before it was cut. The leaves aren't deformed, the bark looks normal, and it has grown several inches every year. It turns a beautiful red color in the fall.


As long as you don't look closely at its feet, you'd never know it had such a struggling start. If you do look closely, you'll see fall-blooming crocus coming up at its base. Maybe someday we'll have some spiny fruit from the Sweet Gum lying there.

The fruit of the Sweet Gum, which I call gumballs, is one of the fascinating things about the tree, although I've heard many people grumble about them. They're round and spiny and turn brown when they're ready to fall off the tree. There is a species of Liquidambar that doesn't produce fruit, however, and we may have one of those. Since Sweet Gum trees don't produce fruit until they're 20-30 years old, it will be some time before we know what we have.

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Photo of Buffalo Treehopper from Wikimedia Commons.
Photo of Sweet Gum fruit from Missouri State University.


14 comments:

nancybond said...

The Sweet Gum is a lovely tree - and what beautiful fall color.

Gail said...

One of my favorite trees...beautiful color and the star shaped leaves are wonderful..

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Gosh, I didn't know it took that long for Gum trees to produce fruit. I think they are lovely trees especially where you can leave the fruit lying on the ground around them.

Carol said...

I studied some entomology in college and decided then that the Buffalo Treehopper was my favorite insect. It still is.

On the Sweet Gum, I bought one that was supposed to be fruitless, but it wasn't so I have plenty of gumballs. The tree has a lot of good charactistics, including great fall color, so I put up with the gumballs... they aren't THAT big of a nuisance. Yours will have them sooner rather than later.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Rosehaven Cottage said...

Is this the same as Liquid Amber or are they just in the same family? The Liquid Amber is the variety we have out here and I LOVE their tenacity. Our neighbor cut his down and I was so sad until I realized that one of the spiky seed pods had been buried on OUR side of the fence by a squirrel. Now its a lovely tree almost directly in line with where the other one was... except it's on OUR side of the fence and he can't cut it down.

perennialgardener said...

I do love the fall color that Sweet Gum shows off each year, but to be honest the fruit is a nuisance. My boys had to rake up the piles as a punishment when they were younger. If you step on one the wrong way you can really twist your ankle.

Rose said...

Your sweet gum is a beautiful tree! I guess it just proves you shouldn't give up on some plants too quickly. I remember the days of helping my kids with leaf and bug collections, too. We never found a Buffalo Treehopper, though:)

Have a happy Thanksgiving, Kylee!

Sue said...

Hi Kylee,
I enjoyed looking at your leaf pictures. I thought that insect was a bird at first! Thanks for sharing the story of your tree. It's a good thing the roots were secure!

Happy Thanksgiving,
Sue

Aiyana said...

Beautiful tree! A mandatory leaf collection project in high school got me interested in desert trees, and that has endured for a half century. Sometimes the simplest things end up to be a life-long inspiration.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Aiyana

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Thanks for sharing that wonderful story of your Gum Tree. It must have been a big surprise when it started to grow again. It looks very pretty now and they are the bestest trees for fall colour, aren't they?

Happy Thanksgiving Kylee to you and yours!

Brenda@View From The Pines said...

You know, if I don't like the way a tree or plant looks, I cut it back. If it makes it, okay. If it doesn't, I hated the way it looked anyway!
Brenda

Benjamin Vogt said...

I did something like this to a river birch this June--the thing was BARELY leafing out (keep in mind it was 10' tall). So I hacked back all those gorgeouos branches, dead over the winter for some reason (it was a new tree the previous fall). In July a billion new branches came out from the trunk and grew 2' on average.

There is a sweet gum I walk by every day on my way in to campus, and it's gorgeous, but looks like it grows very slowly. Didn't get fall colors like yours though.

Kylee said...

Nancy ~ I never noticed its color until this year!

Gail ~ Glad to hear someone else likes them, too!

Lisa ~ My aunt tells me it didn't take hers that long. I forget where I read that about it. Somewhere out there... LOL

Carol ~ The Buffalo Treehopper is cool, isn't it? I've seen a few since that time, but not many. I get excited when I do, though. It doesn't take much for me. LOL.

Glad to hear my Sweet Gum will have fruit sooner. If it's a fruit bearer, that is!

Cindy ~ I have no idea, Cindy. You could tell me better than I could tell you! Good for you on the one you have growing in your yard! :-)

perennialgardener ~ Their fruit is probably like the acorns. You can twist your ankle easily with those, too. Especially in an overproductive year, like this year!

Rose ~ Those were fun days, weren't they? I'm not sure we looked at them quite the same back then as we do now, but that's just the nature of things, I guess.

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, Rose!

Sue ~ Oh, I'm so glad our Sweet Gum decided to show us a thing or two. LOL! I hope your Thanksgiving weekend was fun for you!

Aiyana ~ Isn't that the truth? Maybe our biology and science teachers secretly knew this?
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Yolanda Elizabet ~ It was a big surprise! A good one, though! Thanks for the Thanksgiving wishes!

Brenda ~ That's a good attitude to have!

Ben ~ You are not going to believe this, but we have a River Birch that is doing THE SAME THING as yours! Come spring, I'm going to hack that thing back to the ground and see what happens. It can't look any uglier than it does now. Romie has been wanting to just dig it out, but I won't let him. We'll see what happens!

Kylee said...

Nancy ~ I never noticed its color until this year!

Gail ~ Glad to hear someone else likes them, too!

Lisa ~ My aunt tells me it didn't take hers that long. I forget where I read that about it. Somewhere out there... LOL

Carol ~ The Buffalo Treehopper is cool, isn't it? I've seen a few since that time, but not many. I get excited when I do, though. It doesn't take much for me. LOL.

Glad to hear my Sweet Gum will have fruit sooner. If it's a fruit bearer, that is!

Cindy ~ I have no idea, Cindy. You could tell me better than I could tell you! Good for you on the one you have growing in your yard! :-)

perennialgardener ~ Their fruit is probably like the acorns. You can twist your ankle easily with those, too. Especially in an overproductive year, like this year!

Rose ~ Those were fun days, weren't they? I'm not sure we looked at them quite the same back then as we do now, but that's just the nature of things, I guess.

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, Rose!

Sue ~ Oh, I'm so glad our Sweet Gum decided to show us a thing or two. LOL! I hope your Thanksgiving weekend was fun for you!

Aiyana ~ Isn't that the truth? Maybe our biology and science teachers secretly knew this?
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Yolanda Elizabet ~ It was a big surprise! A good one, though! Thanks for the Thanksgiving wishes!

Brenda ~ That's a good attitude to have!

Ben ~ You are not going to believe this, but we have a River Birch that is doing THE SAME THING as yours! Come spring, I'm going to hack that thing back to the ground and see what happens. It can't look any uglier than it does now. Romie has been wanting to just dig it out, but I won't let him. We'll see what happens!

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