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What to Do With Sweet Gum Balls?

What to Do With Sweet Gum Balls?

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?


Medicinal Uses
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.

Mulching
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.

burning sweet gum balls

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.

Ideas:
• 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

sweet gum ball crafts

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!



Sources:

NCBI

USDA NRCS









12 comments

Jun 14, 2021 • Posted by Alicia Morales

I was desperate to keep cats from pooping in planter bed. So I got a hugh garbage bag of sweet gum balls from a neighbor and put them in a planter bed to keep stray cats out. PERFECTO!!

SO I’m excited…. I’m going to buy a nontoxic paint to paint them white for planter bed and areas throughout my landscape. I was going to purchase white landscape rocks but will try this first.

Apr 08, 2021 • Posted by lllcrows

Did anybody try using sweetgum balls as an orchid base, I want to try but not sure if it is rot resistant and wether or not orchids like them???

Aug 15, 2020 • Posted by Nicole

Word to the wise- they absolutely can cause injury. I mowed our lawn one hot summer day in shorts (not smart, I now know) and one flew out from the mower and stuck into the side of my leg. It caused nasty bruising for weeks and a circle of puncture wounds from the spikes…

Aug 09, 2020 • Posted by Elizabeth

The fruit also makes really great wreaths. You can paint them or use them in their natural state. Just glue them to a wreath, pyramid, topiary, etc form, and before you know it, you have a lovely decorative piece! They last for years!

Jul 13, 2020 • Posted by Ben

My neighbor hacked up my sweet gum that was hanging over his yard and now I swear the tree is getting revenge dropping even more sticky balls this year. Is that possible?

May 15, 2020 • Posted by Annette

Do they drink it if sick with flu. Just place in water as it is then drink.

Apr 24, 2020 • Posted by Soilmaker

I gave up cleaning up all the seed balls from my huge sweet gum years ago. I started consolidating them every spring around the exposed roots, stamp them into the ground and then just cover them over with shredded mulch and plant vinca. They stick together and work great in holding the soil on my erosion prone sloping yard. I also have no more roots to trip over, less lawn to mow, and the tree is doing fine (despite all the weenies that say you can’t cover over the roots with soil). God gives you this stuff every fall, use it.

Apr 24, 2020 • Posted by Soilmaker

I gave up cleaning up all the seed balls from my huge sweet gum years ago. I started consolidating them every spring around the exposed roots, stamp them into the ground and then just cover them over with shredded mulch and plant vinca. They stick together and work great in holding the soil on my erosion prone sloping yard. I also have no more roots to trip over, less lawn to mow, and the tree is doing fine (despite all the weenies that say you can’t cover over the roots with soil). God gives you this stuff every fall, use it.

Mar 19, 2020 • Posted by Frankie Lashlee

Thanks for the info

Mar 17, 2020 • Posted by Dianne Higdon

We have 5 bags of sweet gum balls and they are sharp and hurt when you step in them with bare feet. Our neighbor has 3 in her back yard and they blow into our yard and we rake them every few weeks so we won’t step on them and fall.

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