Seed Pods and Eyeballs: Festival of the Trees #45
I really don’t know trees. Luckily, a friend gave me a New York City tree book for Christmas, and I am starting to use it.
Now I can answer a reader’s recent question about the eyeballs of this fashion-forward snow being.
No, dear reader, the lovely creature’s eyes are not bottle caps, although bottle caps would make starry eyes.
These eyes are hard, spiky seed pods from a Sweetgum tree.
Sometimes called alligator trees for the scaly, reptilian-skin look of their bark, sweetgums (according to my trusty field guide) ooze a “sweet-smelling, balsamic liquid” that has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes and for chewing gum.
It’s true they make fine-looking eyeballs, noses and buttons.
But their purpose, as far as the Sweetgum goes, is not to decorate snow people, but to release tiny seeds to the wind to grow into more Sweetgum trees. Each seed ball, while green and hanging on the tree, holds 40-60 seed capsules, and each capsule holds one or two seeds. When ripe, the seeds disperse, leaving behind holes in the seed pod, which you can make out in the blurry photo below.
Sweetgum pods have a lot of nicknames: gumballs, ankle biters, monkey balls, space bugs, ankle turners, and–my personal favorite–porcupine eggs.
They remind me of mysterious southern nuts and seedpods encountered while out walking the dog in Texas. In a stiff wind, heavy pods showered down around us like hail, while others scuttled after us along the sidewalk like misshapen bugs.Explore posts in the same categories: February, Flora comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.