"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Leaf of the Day: The No-Ball Gumball Tree

I am aware that the deciduous trees are rapidly losing their leaves here and so I am trying to record them before it is too late, for this year at least. I bought back a bunch of oak leaves yesterday and have spent most of the day trying to identify them and have given up on some! They seem to be particularly unreliable in keeping to a consistent shape per species. That is fine and I am particularly fond of the misfits in life but it is a problem when you are trying to identify them from books or the Internet. Some were labelled at Leu, some I have found locally, and for some I have the labels and leaves, but can't match them up because they look so similar... sigh. Why bother ? Well because I am so interested in the variety of leaf shapes. It's a simple design but very beautiful and very functional and more varied than you would ever imagine, not only by shape but by texture and scent as well. I came across a leaf the other day that felt like the softest velvet and then there was the horsetail the other day with its sandpaper stems.

But, as I am not getting much further I am abandoning the oaks and choosing a very simple to identify leaf, the Round Leaved Sweetgum which has the glorious Latin name, Liquidambar styraciflua f. rotundiloba

This very attractive tree is different from other sweetgums in two main respects, these lovely generous rounded leaves and the fact it does not bear fruit. This according to some sites is a positive quality in that "No Falling Fruit Means A Tidier Landscape, this one won't drop annoying gumballs all over your yard! ...."
..and I know many people like their landscapes tidy.

This beautiful tree can grow to a height of about 75 feet and may spread to 50 feet. The beautifully glossy, star-shaped leaves have rounded tips and vary somewhat, some having deeper indentations than others. It has fabulous fiery Autumn colour from reds through to deep purple.

image from Wilson County Arboretum site here.

The regular fruiting sweetgums have a place in history and much to tell. I feel I must now get to grips with that spiky little gumball and give it the attention it deserves, perhaps tomorrow.


Roundleaf Sweetgum


Garden4Life said...

This is such a nice thing to know. :) I've hit more than my fair share of gumballs with the lawnmower, lol. I do love the tree though.

tina said...

It is beautiful! A good substitute for those awful sweetgum balls.

Kim said...

While I'll admit it is certainly an advantage NOT to have sweetgum balls all over the place, the leaves just don't "grab" me as much as the pointy sweetgum ones do. Thanks for this post - I didn't even know these trees existed. Garden Man won't let me plant a sweetgum because of the balls, but maybe we could fit one of these in . . . . .

sharp green pencil said...

Thanks all. so interesting for me to see these gumball trees! .. and there seems to be much divided opinion about them.. I do like the spiky balls though.

Sree said...

Amazed at the variety of plants...never heard of this either. (lovely sketch of the gumball and leaves.. how sharp *is* your pencil Val??? :)