Thursday, January 31, 2008

Liquidambar Trees

Some people have asked what it was that I photographed for the Thursday Photo Challenge. (This is very exciting to me. People read my blog, leave me comments! Thank you, thank you!)

A Liquidambar Tree.

Just as we were getting into the car in Solvang a couple of weeks ago, I spied the three gumballs hanging from the sweetgum or liquidambar tree in the parking lot. I just had to grab a photo of it. The couple sitting in the car near the tree looked a bit apprehensive; they seemed to think I was an odd specimen running around photographing people sitting in their autos. I was actually pointing my camera above their car.

I think there are (at least) two varieties of this tree. A quick internet search gave me information about the tree. I knew it in Oregon as a sweetgum tree, the nasty, deciduous, fast growing tree that littered my yard every fall and winter with prickly balls and large five pointed leaves. We did not have one on our property but most of my neighbors owned at least one. It seemed like all the leaves from all the trees in the entire neighborhood ended up in my yard for me to rake and dispose of. (This was almost true, due mostly to the wind patterns in our cul de sac.) I thought when we moved to Southern California that I had escaped its messy ways.


Not so. There are sweet gum trees everywhere in our neighborhood. Recently, when we were walking along the path in the nature park, a friend asked me the name of the tree, and I told her it was a sweet gum. But evidently, here in SoCal, the tree is called Liquidambar. Whatever its name, it still drops its balls and leaves and they pile up in the gutters and clog the creek, blow into people's yards and litter the streets.




It is true that they are lovely trees to look at. The seed pods remind me of Christmas balls hanging on the branches.



The trees are noted for their interesting, deeply grooved bark.


The leaves turn crimson, purple or yellow in the autumn.


The balls can be sprayed with gold or silver paint and used in Christmas wreaths.




They are lovely to photograph. But I'll never own one because they grow too fast, get too tall, spread their roots too wide, die too soon, and throw their stuff on the ground for others to pick up.

15 comments:

neulekirppu said...

Those balls are really lovely!
We don't have these Liquidambar Trees here in Finland.

Tracy said...

Very interesting, and exciting about this tree! Your photos are terrific, Willow. The house I grew up in, my father planted a sweet gum tree. I loved those strange balls/pods and brilliant fall color. I miss that tree. We don't have them Norway either, at least not that I've seen or am aware of. Thanks for sharing! Happy weekend ((HUGS))

ellen b. said...

Yep, that's another thing I like about blogging...being educated! Thanks for all this great info!

artgirlATL said...

Thanks for filling me in on that. Have a great weekend.

Poshyarns said...

Well, that is fascinating, I haven't come across these trees before so thank you so much for the post.

Bethany Hissong said...

I just realized I missed yesterday's post! I think we have some of those back here amongst our woods. I never really paid close attention. Your photographs do make them look beautiful and I actually like the idea of using the seeds as ornaments! Amazing how something can suddenly be seen in a new light!

Sara said...

You are so right! The sweet gum name is new to me, though.

And as I sit here looking out the window at the front yard, where a liquid amber is planted in the strip by the roadside, I see hundreds of those little balls scattered across the street, the sidewalk, and my front lawn! On my block, the city has planted many of them in that parkway strip. Until a few days ago, all the balls were still on the trees. Now they are falling.

It's an inconvenience, but I do love the way they look, and the colorful leaves in the fall are gorgeous.

Barbara said...

such decorative trees and yes they do look like Christmas dressed trees. I like the shape and the bark.
I am so glad that I am helping yu with your history. I hope you can keep up withme!

Knitting Linguist said...

I love the pictures! And if I remember correctly, the seeds in the middles of those prickly pods are used by schoolchildren in Britain to play conkers (don't quote me on this one).

Jani said...

Funny - we have four of those trees in our yard, but I didn't recognize them in your picture ...

You're certainly right about the negative aspects of the liquidambars, but I think their fall color more than makes up for all their faults!

SweetAnnee said...

I love the sweet gum tree..and it's "fruit"
they make great bowl fillers in autumn

thanks for the info..
deena

Monica said...

What a neat tree! I am really enjoying all of your photos.

Krisu said...

Nice balls, or whatever they are called :) And again, thanks for the explanation for the "black"-theme.

violetlady said...

I have heard of sweet gum trees and the seed balls look very familiar so we may have some here in coastal Delaware. Thank you for the lovely photos.

Elizabeth said...

But they LOOK wonderful!
All best wishes.