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John Fulton


John Fulton
Former County Extension Director



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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Sweet Gum Ball Control

Posted by John Fulton -

Advancing trees and shrubs brings to mind the sweet gum tree. This beautiful tree has been cursed with a fruit few care to see. Anyway, the most common control is ethephon, and it is used as a foliar spray to reduce or eliminate undesirable fruit or seeds. Some of the trade names include Florel and Ethrel. The product is effective at eliminating much of the fruit without affecting leaf growth and color, and it does not harm other plants that get some spray drift on them. It also does not affect the actual flowering of the treated trees. With ethephon, the key is in the timing. The application must be made during flowering, but before the fruit set in. For most flowering trees there is a 10-14 day window of opportunity. Sweet gums are a little tricky since there are no showy flowers involved, so effective sprays should occur just as new leaves begin to emerge. Sprays should leave leaves wet, but not to the point of dripping. Good coverage of the tree is needed, so keep in mind the size of the tree when you are weighing this option. If you can just spray the bottom half of the tree, the top of the tree will still be loaded with sweet gum balls come next fall and winter.



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