Saturday, November 20, 2010

American Hardwoods: Sycamore

It's not just big, it's old, too. In the 500 to 600 years that a Sycamore tree can live, it develops the largest trunk diameter of any of the Eastern U.S. hardwoods. But it's no buttonball! Well, let's see... actually it is sometimes called a buttonball.

Tracing it's origins back to the oldest clan of trees on earth, the sycamore family by all rights is over 100 million years old.

.They're not just old, they're old-old. And they didn't get that old by being a whimp: sycamore trees will bust up a sidewalk with their aggressive growth. Any grasses that should find themselves under a sycamore will be killed by a substance that is released from the trees frequently falling leaves and twigs

Sycamore trees have a flaky, mottled bark that has to constantly give way to it's ever expanding trunk. Falling away in large irregular shapes and leaving behind a green-white-gray surface, the rigid bark is not able to stretch and accomodate the growth. Consider that the largest specimen on record being 167 feet tall with 13 feet diameter; with a few noteworthly historical observations made 45 feet diameter of one particular specimen (George Washington, 1770)

The winged seeds known as ‘helicopters’ twist and spin their way aloft. As a study in wind power, a British company is designing a huge wind power turbine using the sycamore seed as a model. These odd looking turbines are expected to generate 10 megawatts of electricity (enough to supply 500-1000 homes).

The Buttonball Tree is a famous sycamore located in Sunderland, Mass. where the locals say it's the widest tree this side of the Mississippi. Recognized by the National Arborist Association, it's believed to be about 350 years old.

Kokomo, Indiana has a giant sycamore tree stump encased in glass.

In ancient Egyptian mythology twin sycamore fig trees stood at the eastern gate of heaven where the sun god, Re, appeared each morning. This tree was also regarded as a manifestation of the goddesses.

Sycamore is the preferred wood for making 'love spoons' in Wales


Find more in-depth articles from our "American Hardwoods" series:

*KING OF THE FOREST THE RED OAK placing an acron in a window sill was believed to protect the house against what?

* CHAMPION OF HARDWOODS COTTONWOOD why does cottonwood make a poor source of fuel?

* THE WIDOW MAKER ASH might it be dangerous to walk under an ash?

Be sure to come back for our last species to profile: Walnut. Blog visitors have given their support to the "American Hardwood" series...and we'll begin a new series in 2011 that covers


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