First off, we know what you’re thinking: “Those sweetgum balls hurt!”. Before you write them off as just a nuisance, consider these simple ways to utilize them. Bag-A-Nut manufactures sweet gum ball pickers right here in America, specifically designed to pick up those painful balls quickly.
But once you've picked them up, what can you do with them?
Infertile seeds of the sweet gum ball contain shikimic acid, which is also contained in the same tree used to make Tamiflu®. If you’re up for some experimenting, sweet gum balls can be used to make a tea from boiling the young green seeds. The resulting decoction is known for its antiviral properties and can be used as a preventative measure against sickness, or as a remedy for the flu (consult your doctor if symptoms persist). In addition to this, resins and extracts from sweet gum trees have also shown antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcerogenic, antihypertensive, anticoagulant, antihepatotoxic and wound-healing benefits.
Sweet gum pods that fall in autumn can also be used as a mulch. Air and water easily pass through their hollow structure, and their spikey surface can even help deter slugs and other animals. With a slow decomposition rate, sweet gum balls provide long-lasting ground cover, blocking out sun and preventing weed germination.
Fuel for Fire
Sweet gum balls do not catch fire very well by themselves and tend to smolder. However, this makes them a great fuel for hobo stoves as they burn hot enough to cook with, but with minimal flame. Tossed into an already hot fire, they'll burn just fine.
Sweet Gumball Crafts
The unique shape and texture of sweet gum balls make them an excellent material for crafting. With a bit of glue and a few simple crafting supplies, they can take on many different shapes. They're great for decorative purposes, and work well for kids crafts as well (be sure to supervise children, as the gumballs can be rather prickly). If you have extras left over, which you likely will considering they fall in such large volumes, consider selling them online as many hobbyists do not have a source of their own.
• Stack & glue into a snowman or mini Christmas tree
• Paint & loop as Christmas tree ornaments
• String into a garland
• Glue into a wreath
• Paint, attach to a stem, and place in a vase as flowers
• Surround a candle or fill a jar for a gorgeous centerpiece
• Make a heart-shaped Valentine's Day wreath
Let’s not forget about the beauty of the sweet gum ball tree itself. This large tree provides shade in the summer, gorgeous orange, red, and yellow leaves in the fall, and can make a great privacy barrier. The fruit it bears also provides food for various species of birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and ducks.
All these uses are wonderful, but you still have to somehow collect these spikey balls. If you're attempting to rake or hand pick gumballs out of your lawn, consider switching to one of Bag-A-Nut's six different models of sweet gum ball collectors. You'll never look back!