Dawson, Thomas Charles

About Thomas Charles Dawson

A sweetgum is dedicated to Thomas Charles Dawson, who earned two bachelor’s degrees at the University of Maryland. Dawson was born in Fort Belvoir and graduated from Crossland High School in Camp Springs, MD. He received a bachelor’s degree in English at UMD in 1973, and in zoology a year later, graduating cum laude both times. Dawson was a student at Georgetown Law School at the time of his death, which prompted his family to ask for donations to the Georgetown University Law Center to support handicapped law students. Dawson was a keyboard player in local bands in his free time. Thomas Charles Dawson passed away of cancer in home in Greenbelt on February 29, 1980.1

 

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About the American Sweetgum

The tree dedicated to Thomas Charles Dawson is located near the Memorial Garden, just west of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It is an American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), deciduous shade tree that has a native range from Connecticut all the way to Central America. It generally grows to be about 60-80 feet tall, but this specific tree is 37.3 feet tall, has a radius of its foliage spread of 11.6 feet, and has a trunk diameter of 8.5 inches. Once mature, the tree has a rounded-oval shape. The leaves of the American sweetgum are glossy and long-stalked with serrated edges, 5-7 pointed lobes and a fragrance when bruised. The leaves are deep green normally, but turn yellow, orange, purple and red in autumn. The branchlets have ridges with a corky texture. Nondescript, yellow-green flowers appear in the spring, and the female ones give way to gum balls, which are hard, dark brown, spherical fruits with a bristly texture that remain throughout the winter. The gum from these balls has been used in the past for purposes such as chewing gum and perfumes.2

 

  

 

Written by Joanna Barton

 

  1. The Washington Post obituaries, March 4, 1980
  2. http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=c116