Friday, October 8, 2010

Sycamore on the Prairie

Sycamores are trees of river banks and lowland fields where moisture is plentiful. So why is there a Sycamore growing on a dry south facing slope surrounded by xeric prairie plants? This is definitely a tree out of place. It’s growing well now, but whatever water supply it has tapped into cannot be plentiful enough to allow the tree to grow to any great size.

Lack of water is not the only problem this tree faces. The base of the trunk is trying to recover from an extensive deer rub. This tree was lucky it only lost half its bark. Some bucks are so aggressive that they shred the trunk and tear off the top of the tree.

Even though the tree is only ten feet tall, the bark is being shed in typical Sycamore style.

The top portion of the tree is scarred by Periodical Cicada egg laying activities. Some spots have healed over while others are oozing like a festering sore. This won’t help the tree’s chances of long term survival.

Sycamore has one of my favorite leaf shapes. The large lobed leaf has broadly scalloped edges with big teeth. Shaded leaves are often the largest of any species in the woods.

The base of the petiole is greatly enlarged where it attaches to the stem. The enlargement serves to protect the new bud, which won’t be exposed until the leaf falls for the winter.

Now that I’m not specifically looking for caterpillars, I’m once again finding them everywhere. This looper was racing around the edge of the Sycamore leaf, but I couldn’t find where it had been feeding.

While I was moving branches to get a leaf in good position for a shot, this walking stick crawled out onto my arm. This specimen is much stouter than the one I posted before. Perhaps this is a female.


  1. Thanks for today's science lesson. :)

  2. have to give that Sycamore high marks for tenacity! Love that Walking Stick. It's huge!

  3. You are quite welcome, Lois.

    Hi, Kelly. It must be a good year for walking sticks. I've seen five in the past couple weeks.