Monday, September 17, 2012

Giving Gifts: Liquidambar Styraciflua

Early last week when we were visiting the girls at college, Ashley said, "Mom, I found something for you." I didn't know what to expect, but when she told me that she found it on the street and thought I would find it interesting, I couldn't wait to see what it was.  She handed me a little spiky pod and said that she didn't know what this was, but was sure I would like it.
I was intrigued.  It looked like some kind of pointed sphere!

On our next trip to visit the girls, we took a bit of time and collected a few more samples.  I searched online and found that it was named "Liquidambar Styraciflua, also known as American sweet gum or alligator wood.  The pods fall from the hardwood tree that likes warm areas in America, Mexico and Central America.  The leaves are five pointed star shapes and it has hard spiky fruits.  Each capsule contains up to two seeds.  The fruits are called burr balls or gum balls (and also monkey's balls).
The bark of the tree is also interesting, called alligator wood because the bark attaches in plates and is textured with lines running up and down the trunk.
 As we were walking, I spotted this on the ground and realized that it was the sweet gum capsule before it became a burr ball!
Here it is still on the branch.
 I think they are beautiful!  For someone used to seeing acorns and pine cones, this new autumn present is quite beautiful!
Thank you, Ashley!  They are beautiful.

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