I recently moved to southern Virginia near the coast (about 15 miles in from it). All over the ground are these spiky balls that I assume contain seeds to the tree they fall off of.

There are literally thousands of these things on the ground. When they first fell, they were green in color. I would have grabbed a picture of the bark of the tree, but the tree that dropped these is covered in some sort of ivy vine that's growing up it and I couldn't get a good picture of the bark. The trees aren't near any water sources.

seed pod seed pods on ground

  • What does the seed (or seeds) inside look like? – Greg Hewgill Jan 19 '17 at 23:40
  • Some of our older neighbors refer to the balls as "sputniks." – Ben Crowell Jan 21 '17 at 2:15
up vote 13 down vote accepted

That is a sweet gum tree.

The distinctive compound fruit is hard, dry, and globose,1–1.5 inches (25–38 mm) in diameter, composed of numerous (40-60) capsules.[13] Each capsule, containing one to two small seeds, has a pair of terminal spikes (for a total of 80-120 spikes). When the fruit opens and the seeds are released, each capsule is associated with a small hole (40-60 of these) in the compound fruit.

Fallen, opened fruits are often abundant beneath the trees; these have been popularly nicknamed "burr (or bir) balls",[14] "gum balls",[19] "space bugs", "monkey balls", "bommyknockers", "sticker balls",[20] or "goblin bombs".

Source.

See this page for an almost identical picture of the spiky ball and this one (via @Sue) to show the range which means that they are definitely in Virginia.

  • That's exactly what they looked like when they were green too! – Timmy Jim Jan 20 '17 at 0:04

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.