Sweetgum – Dropping Limbs

Q: Help! My sweetgum tree is trying to kill me! I have a large tree in the backyard that keeps dropping big limbs.

It appears to be caused by the weight of the seed balls. What can I or should I do?

A: Sweetgum trees seem to bear their seedpods in an up and down cycle.

Gary Peiffer, forester and Extension agent in DeKalb county, says sweetgum trees are well known to have brittle limbs that come crashing down unexpectedly. After a rain, the ground under a tree will be covered with branches brought down by the weight of the sodden balls.

That said, what can you do about it? It is theoretically possible to eliminate the balls by spraying the entire tree with ethepon (Florel) in the spring. For a large tree, however, this is next to impossible.

Your best bet might be to hire a professional arborist to evaluate the structural integrity of the tree. If the arborist sees many limbs that are weakly attached, they may recommend that you take down the whole tree to be safe.

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