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Sycamores and Maples

Updated on August 6, 2015

Young foliage

Fresh young sycamore foliage. Photograph by D.A.L.
Fresh young sycamore foliage. Photograph by D.A.L.

The History of Sycamore

This species in the U.K. and Europe is called simply the sycamore or the common sycamore and in North America the sycamore maple {to distinguish from Platanus occidentalis which is also called the sycamore} .Although common on mainland Europe it was only during the 17th century that the tree was introduced into Britain. The sycamore is in the genus of Acer while the sycamores in North America are placed in the genus Platanus which include the American sycamore and the California sycamore.

Although introduced to our shores it has found a home where it self seeds readily. It was not planted extensively until the 18th century, when it was planted in large parks and country estates, along with other species from lands far away. This practise heralded planting the species on a far greater scale and the trees became established in the countryside as the decades moved on.

It is another species that grows at high altitudes and only the Rowan { see my hub Rowan a Charming name a charming tree } will be found growing higher on mountains.Studies have revealed that sycamore is present in 14 of 25 recognized woodland types. Sycamores seem to have filled the gap left behind by the demise of the English elm which has suffered devastation due to Dutch Elms disease. The sycamore is a hardy tree which will tolerate cold winds, reasonable amounts of pollution and even salt sprays.

Sycamore

This sycamore is a fairly young specimen probably 30-50 years old. notice the domed canopy. Photograph by D.A.L.
This sycamore is a fairly young specimen probably 30-50 years old. notice the domed canopy. Photograph by D.A.L.
The trunk of sycamore is quite smooth at first but as the tree matures large plate-like scales are formed on the trunk. Photograph by D.A.L.
The trunk of sycamore is quite smooth at first but as the tree matures large plate-like scales are formed on the trunk. Photograph by D.A.L.

Basic Biology of the Sycamore.

The sycamore Acer psuedoplantanus is a large tree with widely spreading, often with domed , canopies. Out in open spaces the tree tends to be as broad as it is high. In woodland they tend to be taller than they are broad, where they have to compete for room and light. They can attain the height of 20-35 metres.

The bark is grey, smooth when young, older trees tend to have broad, flaky scales. The buds 8-10mm are ovoid in shape with reddish margins, when open the basal scales are red and decurved.

Leaves---are arranged opposite on the twigs 9-15cm long and wide.The five shallow lobes are pointed and the margins of the leaves are toothed. The 5 main veins arise from the notched base. They have long slender leaf stalks. The upper surface of the leaf is of a dull green color with sunken veins, the undersides are pale with the veins appearing more raised. The foliage turns brown in autumn.

Foliage

The underside of the foliage is pale and the veins more prominent. Photograph by D.A.L.
The underside of the foliage is pale and the veins more prominent. Photograph by D.A.L.
The foliage of the ornamental maple tree has much sharper tips to the lobes. Photograph by D.A.L.
The foliage of the ornamental maple tree has much sharper tips to the lobes. Photograph by D.A.L.

Foliage variation

There is a great deal of variation in the size of the leaves of sycamore depending on the age and vigour of the shoots. On young trees the leaf stalks tends to be of a reddish colour while on older trees they develop a yellowish-green or even pink colour.

The foliage is often blighted by "Acer tar spot" is found on almost every leaf as the summer progresses. These large black spots are caused by the fungus Rhytisma acertum. Although prevalent they do not seem to do the tree any harm.

Acer Tar spot

Acer tar spot blights the trees as the summer progresses. Photograph by D.A.L.
Acer tar spot blights the trees as the summer progresses. Photograph by D.A.L.

Flowers

The flowers are 5-6 mm wide with greenish-yellow petals, male and bisexual in narrow branched drooping racemes{bunches} These may be 6-13 cm in length with 20-40 individual flowers in each pendulous bunch.

The seeds are twined samaras each seed having a 20-40mm long wing to catch the wind. As they fall they whirl and rotate and are often carried man miles from their arboreal mothers. The seeds mature around six months after the flowers have been pollinated.

THE WOOD---the wood of t he sycamore is white and has a silky lustre and is hard-wearing used for furniture and flooring. It is often utilised in the production of scrolls and the backs of violins.

MEDICINAL---Sycamore for its cooling and antiseptic effects. Preparations of the bark and leaves were used for fever, swollen joints, inflamed eyes, insect bites or simply applied to tired feet. The young leaves can also be added to spring salads.

Maple syrups from Acer saccharin -widely grown in Canada is useful product which is beneficial to human health.

Trunks. Top Maple. Bottom Sycamore

The young trunk of an ornamental maple. Photograph by D.A.L.
The young trunk of an ornamental maple. Photograph by D.A.L.
The bark of an older sycamore tree.Photograph by D.A.L.
The bark of an older sycamore tree.Photograph by D.A.L.

Conservationist and the Sycamore

This tree, as much as any other, has been a considerable source of debate which has split opinion of conservationists. Some hate it and others defend it with great vigour. It is a fact that the dense crown stops ground flora from thriving and the soil under the canopy tends to be dry and bare. Others point out that sycamore does alter the structure and thus the eco-system, particularly of birch and alder woods, should it invade such woodland. They insist that the sycamore should be eradicated from semi-natural woodland.

On the plus side the flowers are an important source of nectar for bees and other insects. Aphids are also numerous on the foliage of sycamore thus providing an important food source for birds, particularly when they have chicks to feed. The seeds are eaten by woodmice especially when other sources of food are in short supply. It has been realised that 150 creatures ae associated with the tree either for food or in some other connection.

In any event and whatever your view the sycamore is here to stay.

Pendulous flowers of Sycamore

The pendulous flowers of the sycamore are important to bees.Photograph by D.A.L.
The pendulous flowers of the sycamore are important to bees.Photograph by D.A.L.

Comments

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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Thank you to everyone that have taken the time to leave a comment on SYCAMORES AND MAPLES, They are much appreciated

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Joy56, (Brenda}Trees are beautiful and are the lungs of the world. Look forward to reading more of your poetry. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment. I am honoured that you still visit my hubs and that they help to inspire you

      to write your beautiful poetry.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Joy56, {Brenda} Trees are beautiful and are the lungs of the world. Look forward to reading more of your poetry. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment. Look forward to more of your beautiful poetry.

    • Joy56 profile image

      Joy56 

      8 years ago

      hi you probably remember me in a previous life, i wrote the poem about the swan........

      I read recently how many gallons of water trees soak up in a day, and other staggering features of trees, that made me sit up and look around me at just how many trees there are everywhere. Your hub was really informative, and satisfied my hunger for information about these wonderful life giving creations, i intend to look through your hubs for more information for my poetry, your work is always so calming and beautiful, i thank you.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      IzzyM, hope you have success with your trees in pots. They are capable of growing to a good size so long as they are regularly fed. Thank you for reading and for leaving your comment.

      billyaustindillon, thank you ,too , for reading and for leaving your appreciated comment.

      Darlene, you are better seeking the advise of a local expert about your tree. Without a picture it would be hard to say which species it was. You and your daughter have been in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for visiting my friend.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      What an excellent hub my dear friend, as you know my heart belongs to trees' and you are teaching me so much. I have a tree that does not look like these two and as the summer starts to end, around August, sap just starts to poor out of this tree, what does that mean, is it sick? Am I watering it too much. He is such an old tree, very rough bark, The leaves are large with a somewhat heart shape, the tree stands very tall, and the leaves are the last to open in the spring, with some kind of flora that is not quite ready to open like all the others. Any guesses. I love all your hubs, I have been so busy worrying about my sick daughter it has been hard for me to get back to everyone, and I have lost that special desire to write. Lovely hub, all thumbs up, useful and beautiful as well as useful.

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 

      8 years ago

      You really captured the natural beauty of these trees here - there truly do make a garden.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 

      8 years ago from UK

      I love the sycamore tree! I've grown a few here in Spain from seeds I brought from the UK, but while they are surviving in pots I have my doubts whether they would survive in the land here due to the arid conditions. While in pots I can easily give them the water they need.

      It would be good if they did survive because sycamore trees are important for their timber, even though it takes a bout 60 years to grow!

      I love the fresh new leaves of spring as well as their fantastic autumn colouring.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Carol, maples are truly wonderful trees which enhance any landscape. There are many ornamental maples here in the U.K. that provide marvellous colourful displays in the fall. Thanks for reading and for leaving your appreciated commnent.

    • reddog1027 profile image

      reddog1027 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      A good hub D.A.L. It shows that some non-natives can settle in and actually be an asset. Here in the States, there is nothing more beautiful than a Sugar Maple in full fall color.

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