Sweetgum trees growing along the backside of the Horner Park lake dam are still full of green leaves, although some brown, autumn leaves have come falling down and can be seen on the green grass. The roots of the trees help hold together the soil of the dam in the town park just beyond the northern boundary of Lebanon, Ill. Native sweetgums provided American Indians with edible and medicinal products, and some uses still exist today. Its resin, or storax, and sap have been used to make balsams and salves and ointments to treat such maladies as skin rash, itching, chest ailments and more. Processed resin has been taken internally for colds, coughs, sore throats and diarrhea, to name a few. Sweet-flavored little globs of the sap-gum can be chewed, and many consider it better than commercial chewing gum. Sweetgums also provide scent for perfumes and flavoring for candy and soda pop. Less than 50 yards from these sweetgums – but not visible in this evening view – are several others that already are displaying leaves of a beautiful red hue. As in the rest of nature, sweetgum life cycles might not play out the same, even among those living so close to each other.
T.E. Griggs is a writer, editor and photographer and a retired U.S. Marine.