I’ve been a tree-lover since way back, so I was gobsmacked last weekend when I saw this magnificent American sycamore at Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island.
The 427-acre park, a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places, contains a zoo, a botanical center, a Japanese garden, a pond and boat house with rentals, and a handful of other attractions. The red-painted building in the photo is the Betsy Williams Cottage, built in 1773. Betsy’s great-great-great-grandfather and the founder of Providence, Roger Williams, acquired extensive property in the region in 1638 by land grant from Canonicus, chief of the Narragansett tribe.
Though many consider the sycamore too messy and large for the home landscape, they are breathtaking in a natural setting. The beauty of their sculptural branches and exfoliating bark is unmatched by other species.
Andrew Wyeth, one of our greatest artists, must have agreed. Many of his paintings depict this stunning native.
I wonder if Joyce Kilmer was thinking of a sycamore when he paid tribute to trees with his best-known poem?
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
The London plane tree (P. x acerifolia), seen across Europe (often pollarded as an urban tree), is a hybrid of our native and the Asian sycamore (P. orientalis). To learn more about sycamore trees, visit 2020 Site.