Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Biomimicry of the Sweetgum ball

Walking through a neighborhood in Southern Illinois, it is impossible not to notice the sweetgum balls in February - they are everywhere!  I've always seen them, but I wanted to know more - perhaps see the strategy of the ubiquitous sweetgum tree through a biomimetic lens.
The Biomimicry of the Sweetgum ball
I noticed right away the hexagons!  They had modified leaves to form the seed enclosure.  They were extremely strong and almost broke my scissors trying to cut it - I had to use a chef's knife to dissect it.   The section cut showed that there was a dense core that everything grew out of and multiple seed pods were present on each gumball, and the gumballs were everywhere.

The tree has taken a common strategy where thousands of seeds are produced in the hopes that one or two will sprout and survive.  This strategy is an optimal one for the organism because the seeds, while abundant, are not energetically expensive and it doesn't jeapordize the tree's survival to produce this many.  It reminds me of the example of the cherry tree in the book Cradle to Cradle - nature is rarely efficient, but it is optimized for survival.

No comments:

Post a Comment