Sweet Gum Seedpods
November 18, 2007
While photographing the sunset at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in southeastern New York State, I focused in on the seedpods decorating one of the many sweet gum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua) found along the park roads. An attractive, rapidly growing tree with star shaped leaves that turn a brilliant red in the fall, the sweet gum is also despised for the prickly fruit that litter the ground beneath them. Though those seedpods are painful to step on and a nuisance to pick up, medical researchers have found high levels of shikimic acid, an important component in the manufacture of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, in the sweet gum fruit. It is believed that the sweet gum was the first tree species selected by USDA Deputy Undersecretary David Tenny and New York Governor George Pataki to plant at the World Trade Center memorial grove. Photo taken on December 31, 2006.