I noticed this sweetgum ball in the middle of the trail where I walked last week because it was green and extra spiky. I picked it up and walked around the park several times as I rolled it around in my hand, switched it to the other hand, rolled it around, and switched again. I liked the way it felt in my hands, but I’ve stepped on plenty of sweetgum balls in my time and I’ve never once liked the way they felt to my bare feet. This one would have caused an extra bit of discomfort.
There are hundreds of tiny seeds inside a sweetgum ball. Scientists discovered not too long ago that the aborted seeds contain shikimic acid, which is used to make Tamiflu. No need for them to gather the pointy ornaments though. They found a way to make it in a lab.
Thousands of them will fall in the coming months wreaking havoc on small feet and annoying the meticulous yard owner.
We’ll just have to watch our steps.