Buttonballs, ready to drop
It was an absolutely gorgeous spring day, and our stopping place happened to be along a picturesque stretch of roadway. On our left, many dogwood and redbud trees were blooming on an east-facing hillside. On our right, a tangle of small trees and bushes were growing on the side of a ravine. Towering above them all was a young sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), seen in both the photo at left and the photo below.
Look how many of last year's fruits are still clinging to the top of that scyamore. This is typical of the tree -- in tree-speak, it's said that the sycamore fruits "persist" over winter.
The seed release is also perfectly timed for the seeds to be dispersed by spring floods. As the waters recede, seeds left in the mud are in the ideal spot to sprout and grow.
If you want to plant a sycamore tree, look for a seedling in the spring. You can recognize them by their large leaves. They are easy to dig up and transplant when they are small.
A sycamore seed that takes root in a friendly site can grow up to 10 feet in its first year. That's simply amazing -- from a seed to a 10-foot tree in 12 months.
Sycamore likes any damp location. It is most often seen in low-lying areas near streams, ponds, and lakes, but it can also establish itself in upland situations where the soil stays damp most of the time. The sycamore growing on the side of the ravine is a good example of the upland situations that sycamores can handle. In that site, it probably gets a good bit of runoff water from the road everytime it rains.