There are so many interesting features of this wonderful native tree! In the spring the male flowers look like little 2” Christmas trees out of a Dr. Seuss book, less showy female flowers produce large (1”) spiked seed capsules called ‘gumballs’ which change from green to brown over the summer months then persist into the winter for a uniquely ornamental effect as they swing in the wind, star shaped glossy green leaves turn beautiful colors in fall (red, orange, yellow & burgundy!), dark twigs & branches develop corky wing-like growths, both leaves & stems are fragrant if injured, young trees will take a couple of years to settle in before growing up to 2 feet a season under good conditions (sunny & moist), seeds a favorite of finches, host plant to the amazing Luna Moth caterpillar (Actias luna). OK – so I grew up on ‘Gumwood Dr.’ where we had lots & lots of these trees, so maybe I am particularly nostalgic about them! Not only did we enjoy the wonderful shade & fall color, my brothers & I got to experience the exquisite (painful?!) sensation of stepping on gumballs barefoot (!) & play games pelting each other with the ever present ammo! Truly & underused & underappreciated tree – there are sterile cultivars available now that produce few if any ‘gumballs’ but it seems to me that losing the ornamental contribution of them takes away much of the unique character of this beautiful tree!
60-100’ tall (30-70’ wide)
Plant Hardiness Zones: 6a-10b
Native Range: MA & se NY west to OK & s. MO, south to e. TX & c. FL. Rare in CT
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