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(January 2012)

QuestionCould the thorny seeded tree you talked about Dec. 24 be a sweetgum instead of a chesnut? I don’t think there are any chesnut trees left in Arkansas. Without a picture, how can I be sure of the difference? What about a horse chesnut? I think they are poisonous


AnswerIt certainly is a possibility that the thorny fruits were sweetgums. I had chestnuts on my mind, since someone sent me a sample and asked for identification recently. Chestnuts were practically wiped out in the United State due to chesnut blight, but they are not extinct, and there are millions of seedlings nationwide. We have been seeing a resurgence of the American chesnut tree in Arkansas. I have seen fruiting trees from Baxter County, to Petit Jean, Little Rock and Monticello. It’s fruit has lots of spines on the outside and a narrow, toothed leaf and edible inside nut. The American chesnut foundation is also breeding disease resistant varieties which should soon be available to the public. The sweetgum tree does have thorny smaller fruit, but you won't get too much inside, nor is it edible and it is very widespread in our state. The single leaves look almost like stars with five points. The horse chesnut is also called a buckeye and while it does have a large poisonous seed, the pods have small thorns, but it is not as common in our state as the red buckeye, which has . As with all members of the Aesculus (horsechestnut family) they have compound leaves with 5-7 leaflets. I have attached pictures of all three for proper identification.

(December 2011)

QuestionWe have a tree by our driveway, we don't know what kind it is. Every year it has balls on it that are about as big as a golf ball, they have thorns on them that hurt if you pick them up. There are so many on our driveway it is hard not to step on them, sometimes it is hard not to fall. Is there anything we can do so these balls won't come on the tree next year?


AnswerSounds to me like you have a chestnut tree. If you can get to the nuts inside—a thorny problem, they are quite tasty. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to prevent them from setting fruit. On the positive side, we are gaining success in growing chestnuts again. For many years they were wiped out by the chestnut blight.

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