I found a large grouping of gum ball pods in the woods in April 2015. It looked unnatural in the forest, so I questioned whether the grounds crews were allowed to dump organic waste in Dunn Woods. I got the response that of course they do not dump material in the woods. So I questioned this pile of sweet gum balls (Liquidambar styraciflua) that I found in the woods, and was told that they must have been blown there by a strong wind. So I am not a sceptical person by nature, but this seemed to be coloring way outside the lines.
Anyone who has tried raking them up knows how difficult they are to move, even with a lot of effort, their little hooks grab everything. It would seem their hope for dispersal of the pods is through hooking onto a mammal’s fur, not by flying through the air, especially as a group. The seeds inside are tiny, and are dispersed by the wind, but not the pods. Look around town at the plantings of gum ball trees, the pods are all right there underneath the trees. I suspect someone collected this grouping from the trees in front of Poplars Garage, and threw them into the forest rather than take them to a compost pile So I call bull**** on the wind theory. But at least now they know someone is watching and caring what happens in the woods, and I hope that will keep this from happening again.