Saturday, April 12, 2014

Inch Five: Sycamores

Sycamores along the Olentangy
The sycamores are still with us. Spring is coming on slow this year; the sycamores will hang around until the undergrowth and other deciduous trees turn green and fill in the landscape.

Sycamores don't physically move, of course. They just become part of the general landscape when all the trees are in full leaf, standing alongside the oaks and maples and buckeye trees. Once that happens, I tend to push the sycamores to the edge of my consciousness until the late fall, when they will come to my brain's forefront again.

Sycamores are great, graceful trees that tend to line riverbanks. You see them along the Olentangy River, which splits through Delaware. There are even a few along the banks closest to the downtown, where most sycamores in that area disappeared when the feds brought the high bypass through in the 1950s.

 My very old (1956) Golden Nature Guide on TREES (all caps, all the time) notes that the American Sycamore is characterized by the "cream-colored fresh bark" visible when the outer brown bark peels off naturally. Don't think yellow cream, think white cream. Now picture the Route 23 North onramp at the north edge of town. The onramp, high in the air, shoots straight east towards the Olentangy, then curves north and drops to highway level right along the river. When I get on that ramp before the world turns green again, all I see is sycamore after sycamore, those cream-colored trunks and branches reaching high into the sky.

Sycamore are tall, among the tallest hardwood trees. They do not have the heavy girth of oak trees, but they more than make up for the oak's mass with their slender proportions and that ghostly, other worldly appearance. No state has chosen the sycamore for its state tree, a fact which surprises me. I would have thought some legislator around this part of the country would have recognized the beauty and grace of the sycamore, not to mention its ubiquitous presence.

Robert Frost wrote a poem, "Goodbye and Keep Cold," in which he bids his apple orchard farewell for   a long season. E. B. White wrote "Farewell, My Lovely!," his essay to the Model T as it disappeared from the American scene. I have a fleeting sense of Frost and White's moods as I look at the sycamores, soon to disappear again for a long season. Farewell and see you in November.


see you there! said...

Don't know I've ever seen one but they do have a beauty of their own. The white is very bone like.


Cindy Walsh said...

Sycamores are mentioned in the lyrics of the song "Dream a Little Dream of Me". Not a common tree in the western US.

April said...

The American Sycamore's range is primarily east of the Mississippi. It extends into the states just west of the river, but does not extend into the Great Plains. And Cindy is absolutely right: "Birds singing in the sycamore trees/Dream a little dream of me" (end of first verse). Nice catch!