One of the most easily identified trees in the forests of the eastern United States is the American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). Even from a distance, it’s easy to pick out the sycamore by it’s white bark. There are places along the highways in the area, particularly where the road goes over river or stream valleys, where they are quite the most numerous tree. They grow very well in wet floodplains and of course they get quite large, often reaching 80 or more feet in height and trees with a trunk diameter in excess of four feet are not particularly uncommon. In addition to the white bark on the upper portions of the tree, lower down, where the branches are trunk are thicker, the brown outer bark peels away in a very distinctive way, as seen in this photograph of a tree probably not more than 15 or at most 20 years old.
In 1981 my parents and brothers spent eight weeks backpacking around Greece. We had spent a week there in 1971 and my mom started planning then to return. On this longer trip in 1981 we were in Crete (twice, actually) and happened to find this old plane tree.
Dot and Bob at the Old Plane Tree, Krási, Crete, 2007
The London plain tree is a cross between the American sycamore and Oriental plane tree, P. orientalis. In 2007, Cathy, Dorothy, and I went to Greece with my mom and dad for about three weeks of camping. We were able to find this tree again, in Krási. It is claimed to be the oldest and largest plain tree in the world. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s certainly big, with a trunk circumference of nearly 80 feet. As you can see, it isn’t exactly a perfect cylindrical trunk, and the tree isn’t nearly as tall as many American sycamores that I’ve come across. Still, it’s a mighty fine specimen.
Driving home today, traffic was quite heavy and I had to stop a number of times as I approached the bridge over Rock Creek. I took a few pictures of the woods out my passenger side window as I waited and that’s what today’s photo is. In the past I’ve taken pictures along here on cold, foggy, winter evenings and I’ve been quite pleased with them. This one is a bit ordinary by comparison. Still, the copper color of the beech leaves and the grey of the tree trunks is nice. I didn’t have a lot of options as to where I’d be stopping so my choice of shooting locations was dictated to me by the flow of traffic. This is generally the worst part of our commute. It’s better than it was before the ICC (i.e. MD 200) was built, but it still backs up because of the poor timing of the traffic lights ahead.
American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
Cathy and I took a walk in the neighborhood this afternoon. It was cool but the sky was an amazing blue and I stopped a few times to take pictures of trees against that blue. There are few that are prettier in the winter than the pale sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) against that blue and that’s what we have here. Just before I took this picture, we passed a yard with a large oak tree that had a fairly substantial branch which had broken off and which was suspended above the driveway and yard on some lower branches. The homeowner was trying to get a rope over the branch so he could pull it down. He was wearing a helmet and throwing a rope with a wrench tied to the end as a weight. It was pretty high up and by the time we got past he still hadn’t managed to get it high enough, but I assume he eventually did. Ah, the joys of home ownership.
It was a pretty day today. The weather has finally turned cool and it’s clearly autumn now. The leaves on the trees are still mostly green but there are occasional splashes of color from early maples or some of the smaller plants that tend to react more quickly to the changing seasons. Outside my office window, the Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a deep red, climbing up into two large elms and the other trees on the edge of the woods. Cathy and I met at a picnic table briefly early in the afternoon and then I walked in the woods and took a few pictures, including this one of the bark of a black walnut tree (Juglans nigra).