Hardiness Zone: 6a
G. Brent from St. Louis, MO
In my opinion, planting trees is one of the few ways to create lasting positive change in the world. When you pause to consider how significant a tree is, you realize that just one tree offers food and refuge to hundreds of insects, animals and birds; offers beauty, shade and clean air to human beings; and gives the entire planet another carbon sink. It does all this for 100's of years, and that doesn't even include the tree's potential offspring! I think this is a great idea-and a wonderful way to honor your father.
Sweet Gum Trees make beautiful shade trees. You can propagate them from seeds or cuttings. Starting seeds will take a lot longer, but since you've already collected the gumballs, let's start there. Later, if you can't get the gumballs to germinate, try starting a new tree using a cutting and a little rooting hormone. It will take 60-100 days to root, but once it gets going, these trees grow fairly fast.
Gumballs turn brown with age. As they turn color on the tree, the heads pop open to disperse the seed. The gumballs can be taken from the tree safely for a few weeks before they turn color without hurting the seed. If the gumballs you collected are green, you can continue to let them dry and pop open, or try to gently pry them open yourself to access the seeds. Inside each prickly point are 1 or 2 winged seeds (usually dispersed by the wind). The entire gumball can contain as many as 50 seeds in a good year, and as few as 5 in a bad year (it runs in 3-year cycles). The amount of seeds found in the gumballs tends to correlate with how viable they are. The more seeds the ball has, the more likely it is that those seeds are of good quality.
I'm no authority on Sweet Gum Trees, but my understanding is that the seeds need to be cold treated in order to get them to germinate (approximately 12 weeks at 40F).
Steps in cold stratification are:
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