Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sycamore Tutorial

I had always been under the impression that the sycamore trees around here were the same ones that Zaccheus sat in as he watched Jesus pass by, only to be called to come down because Jesus would eat at the tax collector's house that day. Sadly, I was wrong.  The kind of sycamore tree that he sat in was really some kind of a fig tree.  Still the U.S. sycamore tree also known as buttonwood tree is a beautiful tree.

The sycamore grows in the middle of the country through the east coast and almost up to the New England states.  The sycamore is a very tall tree, a top story tree in the woodland forest when allowed to grow. One reason I notice sycamores has to do with my love of hawks who roost in tall trees like the sycamore. The sycamore likes to grow on wet ground or where there is frequent rain.  This tree has large leaves which grow bigger than a hand and generally turn dry and brown and fall off in autumn without changing color.

The most striking part of the sycamore is the bark.  The spongy outer layer on most trees is flexible enough to expand as the tree grows.  The sycamore has more rigid bark tissue that cracks and sloughs off as the tree grows creating an interesting pattern.

As I traveled the countryside last weekend I took some sycamore photos to illustrate.
This young sycamore is near where I park at school each day.  They planted sycamores all around my school. The mottled bark of the young sycamore is one of the most recognizable features.

The older sycamore seen at a rest stop in Illinois has more usual tree bark at the bottom of the tree. Looking at the trunk near the bottom, you might not realize that it was a sycamore.

But, looking up, you can see the mottled looking distinguishing bark of the sycamore tree.

The sycamore tree on the right of this grove at a rest stop in Tennessee has the white upper branches that so identify the sycamore tree.

Looking closer, you can see the leaves turning brown and drying up rather than turning colors in the fall.

A sycamore's bark is just unusual. At one time I might have thought it was a disease, but the bark is just normal for the sycamore.

This tree at Rend Lake in Illinois has not yet started to lose its leaves. It is not an old sycamore and it is already taller than the surrounding trees.

This was the bark from Forest Park in St Louis that started all this boring stuff.

I really liked the patterns on the bark of these trees.

These are the sycamore leaves which look a little like maple leaves, but these are bigger than maple leaves.

So now you know more than you ever wanted to about sycamore trees.  Or as some people call them--sigamore trees.

2 comments:

Tami said...

Mary,
Just when you think you are going to bore me, you give me a treasure post on trees. LOVE IT!

mary333 said...

Odd looking trees, Mary - they remind me a little bit of birch trees except the sycamore is far more unusual looking. I really did think the one at the park was fake at first. Thanks for the tutorial!