Sweetgum tree treatment


Old 11-09-02, 12:16 PM
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Question Sweetgum tree treatment

We just bought a new house and on the property line is a nice, large sweetgum tree. Our neighbors aren't big fans of the spiny balls dropped by the tree and neither are we. Rather than taking the tree out though, I heard that you can get the tree treated each year to keep the spiny balls from being produced. Any truth to this?

My parents just had their sweetgum tree hacked up and were told it would cut the production the first year by 80-90%, but I'm looking for an option that would allow the tree to look nice and full like it is.

Thanks all.
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Old 11-10-02, 08:51 AM
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Sweet Gum

The spiny balls are seed pods. I believe there are chemicals that can be used to keep some plants from producing seed--but I'm not sure about trees.

Could you post a little more information on the treatment you heard about?

Another option would be to plant a ground cover under the tree that would hide the seed pods.
Old 11-18-02, 10:47 PM
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Sprays to prevent development of seed pods

I'm not blindly devoted to organic gardening, nor am I dedicated to using chemicals to solve every problem. Here's my two cents:

There are lots of growth regulating chemical sprays that inhibit the growth or development of trees. Each of the chemicals has its own set of problems. It not just toxicity to humans. Pets, wild animals, birds, and beneficial insects may also be affected. Improper use may also hurt the tree. There may be other environmental problems. You may need permits to spray some of these chemicals. Lastly, a spray that may work on other trees may not work on your sweet gum tree.

You have to decide if the risks of these chemicals are worth it to you, the tree, and your neighborhood. If your neighbors don't like seed pods, I doubt they'd like growth regulating chemicals sprayed on the entire tree, which would probably drip in their yard. If you decide to spray, contact your local county agricultural extension _first_ for information. They're usually listed in the white pages of your phone book.

The alternative is to get some exercise and don't fight Mother Nature (she'll always win). Rake the pods up and get the tree pruned properly. The tree will put you on a regular fitness program. That will do both you and the environment some good.

Old 11-19-02, 10:48 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Posts: 1,448
Chemical flower abortors for trees.

Hi TommyBoy,

You can do some research on these, they have been shown to prevent flower production in certin trees.

Auxin, Accel, Carbaryl, 6-Benzyladenine, Paturyl, Perlan, Apogee BASF 125, Ethephon,

This is just a few of flower inhibitors that have been shown to stop flower production in Trees.

It will give you a start on what you want to do.

Old 11-20-02, 02:41 PM
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Maryland zone 7
Posts: 1,716
Here's a site that will make you think twice...

Hi TommyBoy,

I do understand how you and your neighbor feels about those spiny balls. In my community the city planners planted loads of these nasty trees as street trees. I'm sure you can visualize what it's like to walk your dog under them!!

Here's a site that will make you think twice about using chemicals on your tree. Go ahead and look up the chemicals that Marturo recommends you research. I wouldn't want to poison my worst enemy with them!


Trees are a long term investment and are usually planted for the enjoyment of future generations. My suggestion would be to either do like Larry suggests and get your exercise or cut down the tree and plant a native that will offer something for wildlife and you. I can think of a couple you might want to look into. The ash and the sourwood are beautiful trees and offer lots of the same things you admire about the sweet gum that you inherited. Stay away from the locust as they get huge surface roots once they put on some size and will move the foundation of your house if you plant it closer than 50'. I can personally testify to that as I inherited one and had to have it cut down.

Here's a site you can use to research any trees you might consider.


Best of luck,
Old 11-22-02, 04:34 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: USA
Posts: 15,834
Gum balls

I always chuckle when I see where a city has incorporated a gum ball tree into sidewalk plantings. The city landscape engineer must have been clueless. I once lived in a house when my daughter was about 4. I gave her a penny each for every gum ball she picked up and put in the trash. Profitable contract for both of us, and it improved her counting skills.

Everything in life is a trade off. If you like your gum ball tree, keep it and pick up the gum balls. If it is a problem for you, simplify your life by removing the tree and replacing it with a tree that will make your life less complicated.

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