Plant & Flower Identification

Tree With Round Balls – What Do You Know About It?

A tree with round balls is one of the coolest plants that you can find in different parts of the world. The hard and spiky protuberances make those nuts look formidable.

It’s also the reason making it difficult to take out the edible seeds.

You can get a prick on your finger if you carelessly touch them, or your feet can get injured by stepping on those rolling underfoot.

What’s more interesting about these trees with spikey balls? Follow along!

What Is A Tree With Round Balls?

tree with round balls

Trees with prickly balls are those plants featuring fruits covered with sharp thorns. You can find them in many regions on Earth, such as Asia, Africa, North America, and Australia.

Because of the thorns, these spiky things that fall from trees can make you injured if you’re not careful. The length of those thorns or spikes varies depending on the type and living environment.

These trees with balls on them have edible fruits, but it’s not the taste of everyone. People usually use it for decoration or crafts purposes.

The plant is also well-known for its hardwood which is good for construction.

How Many Types Of Tree With Round Balls Are There?

Sweet Gum Tree

The first one to name among trees with spiky balls is Sweet Gum, also called Liquidambar styraciflua.

The plant originated from the southeastern United States and lives in the USDA plant hardiness zones from 5 to 9, such as swamps, woodlands, and bottomland forests.

Many people choose Sweet Gum to grow in their yards or gardens because the prickly ball tree gives shade and the beautiful color of fall leaves.

It’s quite a large species with a width of 45 feet and a height of 60 to 70 feet (some even reach more than 100 feet).

The plant has glossy, deeply-lobed leaves, yet its distinctive feature is the spiky sweet gum tree balls/ fruits (the clusters of seed pods) hanging on the branches.

This type of spiny fruit has a globe shape, and its diameter is around 1.25 inches.

Sycamore Tree

Sycamore (Platanus spp.), originated from Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa, is a popular tree with spiny balls. In general, Sycamore has large leaves and mottled and peeling bark.

This beautiful plant can live for hundreds of years.

Eastern Sycamore, or Platanus occidentalis, is one of the huge trees in North America, with 75-to-100-foot height and 3-to-8-foot trunk diameter.

Thus, it requires a large space to grow. The suitable USDA zones are from 4 to 9.

Another must-be-mentioned member is California sycamore or another name, Platanus racemosa. It thrives in USDA zones 7 to 10 and can reach a height of 30 to 80 feet.

Its nuts are round with a diameter of 1.5 inches. They may look spiky, but the thorns are actually not sharp and fierce.

When at an early stage, they look fuzzy with green color, then become brown and bristly.

What are the round spiky balls that fall from trees? These spiked balls dangling on branches are actually fruits named acorns.

You will see them fall on the ground when they mature and new trees sprout.


The next tree with brown balls and spiky seed pods that should be mentioned here is chestnut. Because of its long and spiky thorns, it also has another name called, “devil’s walking stick.”

You can find chestnuts in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, etc.

They grow well in savannas and dry forests and prefer rocky or sandy soil. The plant’s height can reach 30 feet, and its thorns can be around 4 inches.

It has white and small flowers, blooming in summer and spring.

I usually grow chestnut-capped thorn trees as a screen or hedge for ornamental purposes.

Besides being one of the common landscape trees, they are also used in traditional medicine due to the medicinal properties of the spikes.

Chestnuts have many types. Some of them are:

  • Chinese chestnut or Castanea mollissima is a variant thriving in USDA zones from 5 to 8. When the fruits are green, their thorns actually look like coarse and long fur. Later on, burs become brown, and spikes get harder.
  • Hybrids between Chinese and American chestnuts can grow in zones 4 to 8 and are a popular choice for gardens, orchards, and home landscapes. Their spikes are also very dense.

The Hybrids’ leaves are oval, have serrated margins, and turn to bronze or yellow in autumn.

According to my experience, you can spot their burs at the beginning of summer by finding the green balls on the tree.

They will stay there for the whole summer until autumn. When the fruits ripen, they crack and reveal one to four edible nuts inside.

Harvesting chestnuts from this spiky ball tree is not an easy job. You’d better let them ripe and fall off the trees by themselves.

You can collect those with opened burs, but I highly recommend you use gloves to protect your hands.

Buckeye Tree

prickly ball tree

Buckeye Tree (Aesculus spp.) is an interesting plant in the thorny family. It has this name because there’s a light-colored spot on the seed that looks like a deer’s eye.

The plant can be quite giant, with some variants that are 100 feet tall. They are native trees of the eastern United States, but you can find them in different locations as well.

Their nuts have poison harmful to humans and animals, except squirrels.

Ohio buckeye, or Aesculus glabra is a common species. They grow in USDA hardiness zones from 4a to 7a with a height and width of 50 feet.

After the flowers bloom in spring, spiny and round fruits appear with 1 to 3 inch spikes.

Horse Chestnut Tree

The most common type of this plant is the European horse chestnut or Aesculus hippocastanum, developing in zones 3 to 8. Its fruits are leathery and as small as a golf ball.

And, of course, they have sharp spines.

Horse Chestnut is a large deciduous tree with a height of up to 75 feet. Its crown spreads impressively large with stout branches. The big leaves look like a palm and obtain five to seven leaflets.

The white, pinkish-white, or cream flowers usually grow in long and dense racemes. The horse Chestnut Tree natively comes from the Balkans and southern Europe.

After it was brought to Britain, people have widely grown it as an ornamental tree, just like the Chinese maple and Japanese maple.

Since this type of tree with spiky balls is big and has spreading crowns and beautiful showy flowers, this decorative plant appears more and more in many gardens and parks.

However, you may face some issues in growing it, such as invasive roots and the risk of heavy fruit balls falling off.

London Plane

If you live in urban areas, you’ll likely see the London Plane, a hybrid of American Sycamore and Oriental Plane Tree, at least once.

This large and deciduous tree has a wide canopy and can grow up to 80 feet tall.

The plant originated from Asia and Europe and became a popular street tree in North America.

It has thick and corky bark where you can see large and square flakes usually come off from it. This shade tree features large, leathery, and lobed leaves.

Its flowers are inconspicuously small, but its fruits are bigger and spiky, containing a lot of seeds. The small green balls on the tree will develop to brown after each yield.

The London Plane is considered a helpful friend for the city as it can withstand pollution and the salty environment. Diseases and pests can hardly affect it.

Besides, it’s tolerant of heavy foot traffic, and its dropping fruits and leaves may not cause danger for people. Thus, the London Plane is an ideal choice for different public places such as parks, zoos, etc.


trees with balls

Can You Plant Spiky Balls From Trees?

No, the spiky balls themselves can not be planted, but you can grow trees from seed. Give them a little time to dry out and stratify before you start growing them.

How To Remove Spiky Balls From Trees?

An arborist can help you by spraying or injecting a product so these spiky nuts from trees will not grow anymore.

If you see them on the ground, take a close-tined rake to collect and throw them in the trash can.

Are Spiky Seed Balls From Trees Harmful To Animals?

Yes, the buckeye seeds inside contain poison dangerous for most animals. Only squirrels can consume it without being harmed.

Those dried nuts that fall to the ground will be cracked, revealing the seeds inside. As a result, it will attract many butterflies, birds, and animals.

The Bottom Lines 

A tree with round balls may look scary at first, but there are many interesting facts to learn.

Those brown spiky things that fall from trees are various in shape and size, making each of them an attractive species to explore.

Remember that these trees with balls have sharp thorns on their fruits, so make sure you put on your gloves and use some gardening tools to collect them; otherwise, you can hurt yourself.

Samuel Mark

Hello I am Samuel. Samuel's Garden is a garden blog where I share my experiences in garden caring and tree growth. Hope you enjoy it!

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