The sweet gum tree produces that little ball with tiny horns that hurts so much to step on barefooted. Inside each tiny horn is a capsule which holds two small, winged seeds which drop in the fall. In the winter, one can see these little prickly balls still hanging high in the tree. The leaf of the sweet gum is star-shaped, with five to seven pointed lobes. The leaf somewhat resembles a maple leaf. If in doubt whether the tree is a maple or sweet gum, check the leaf nodes. If the opposite, the tree is maple; if the alternate, sweet gum. Also, the crushed leaf of a sweet gum has a distinct odor, like that of balsam. Another sweet gum clue is its corky bark. It forms deep ridges, but not all branches have this corky texture. On the hardwood lumber market, sweet gum is second only to oak for the volume produced.
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