American Sycamore

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.

American sycamore at Roger Williams Park, Providence, RI.

American sycamore at Roger Williams Park, Providence, RI.

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.

Magazine cover by Andrew Wyeth, one of many paintings featuring the American sycamore.

Magazine cover by Andrew Wyeth, one of many paintings featuring the American sycamore.

I wonder if Joyce Kilmer was thinking of a sycamore when he paid tribute to trees with his best-known poem?

Trees

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.

13 thoughts on “American Sycamore

  1. Will

    Love! the sycamore………I’ve read that they can grow to a trunk 12 feet in diameter! I also adore the sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), but when it comes to the fruit of these two trees, though somewhat similar in appearance, the soft and fuzzy sycamore balls are far preferable to the spiky balls of the sweet gum – as any barefoot stroller will attest.

    Reply
  2. Jane Skolnick

    If you ever get the chance, check out Main Street in Glastonbury Conn.
    Sycamores line the street of historic homes there. Quite the sight!

    Reply
  3. Mary Irons

    Marion, this is my first blog reading and I’m loving it. Being a native Rhode Islander I feel like I should go and see the tree!
    So enjoyed your visit to RI last weekend. I wish you the best in all your upcoming endeavors!

    Reply
  4. Anita Humphries

    I do NOT know trees. At all. But when I read this, I was so excited, b/c in house hunting trips up here I have noticed large trees (mostly in the rural areas) that have these big, silvery branches. Now I know what those beautiful trees are! Thanks (as always) for educating me!

    Reply
  5. Susan Temple

    I agree with the beauty of the Sycamore. I fell in love with them after seeing two about as big around as a car at a B&B in Princess Ann Maryland. There were 2 planted out front of the B&B built in the 1700s. I have one I planted in my back yard but they grow wild all through my woods.

    >>> Hortitopia 5/22/2013 12:08 PM >>>

    Marian St.Clair posted: “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”

    Reply
  6. Laurrie

    The sycamores in Simsbury, CT are also awesome, incredible trees, and in fact the state’s largest recorded tree is a sycamore on the bank of the river in Simsbury — it’s a huge ghostly looking monster, all gnarled and white splotched. My son wanted to impress his girlfriend when he was in college, and he took her to see it — a “giant sequoia” he promised. She was from out west and couldn’t believe we had giant redwoods here — well, of course it wasn’t a sequoia at all, but a sycamore! Close enough. And still impressive. I love your picture of that R.I. sycamore!

    Reply
  7. Garden Walk Garden Talk

    Nice post, Sycamore is a favorite of mine. They have all season interest. I am staying at my cousin in PA’s house on a street lined with huge Sycamore. It is so nice sitting on the porch under these trees.

    Reply

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