Most of the time, we call them spiky balls.
When I step on one by accident in the dark while walking barefoot in the yard, I call them a string of expletives that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush.
They’re the seed pods of the liquid amber tree, also known as Liquidambar styraciflua.
The trees, which seem to have hatched a diabolical plan to drive us out of our place and take over the world, have a never-ending supply of these things.
The bulk of the pods rain down in the fall, but I think the trees hold back a little, saving some to release from high branches all year round.
The other day, little C. and I raked up a batch off the back lawn, leaving a green-waste can about two-thirds full.
“Bye, bye, spiky balls!” she said as after I tossed a scoop in the trash can.
The balls, which measure about an inch across, are covered in sharp, protruding spikes. They look innoncent enough. But they’re surprisingly tough, easily penetrating the leathery sole of my foot.
I despise these pods, and I know I’m not alone. Liquid amber trees grow all over the Pocket, and probably seemed like a good idea back in the early 70s our neighborhood was built.
The trees do make some pretty nice shade, especially when it’s broiling at 105 degrees on a summer afternoon.
It’s just that the pods drive us nuts. If there was some kind of industry that needed them as fuel, we would be rich.
But for now, we just keep raking. And cussing.