Saturday, October 15, 2005

Blakeman on trees ...and this website


You've already posted what I think is surely the answer to the missing sycamores question. The information your correspondent sent you is correct. Platanus occcidentalis is markedly susceptible to spring-time anthracnose infestations. In cool, moist weather this fungus destroys emerging leaves. New growth proceeds later in June, after warmer and drier summer conditions prevail.

But the resulting vegetation can be rather sparse. Even in years without anthracnose blights, the density of sycamore foliage is not thick enough to entice colonial night roosts of any bird.

As majestic as native sycamores are across their native range in the Eastern third of the continent, they do not make good park trees. In the wild, their majestic white trunks can be massively impressive, as depicted in N.C. Wyeth paintings. But it can take many decades for the white bark to emerge. In the meantime, the tree simply loses its leaves every second or third spring and looks quite pitiful. The removal of young sycamores from Central Park is entirely reasonable. They just don't work in such settings.

In hopeful anticipation of having a monumental white-barked sycamore, I planted a seedling in my rural front yard 30 years ago. The tree is now sixty feet tall, but its bark is still dull brown, and anthracnose clips the leaves about every second year. I planted a gorgeous black oak near the sycamore that is particularly scarlet-leaved at leaf fall. It should take its regal place in the landscape when I finally get around to dropping the deficient sycamore -- perhaps this winter.


John A. Blakeman

Note from Marie: Since I worried, in a recent posting, that readers might be less interested in subjects such as moths or grackles or tree identification, John Blakeman added the folloiwing words of reassurance t
o his informative letter :

You needn't fret about the public's dismissal of your recent, non-avian pages and images. Your readers have dismissed neither you nor your new postings. As you've learned, readers have been delighted with these new topics.

The interests of your readers are simply biophilia, “love of living things,” a core element of most humans. Too often, we think that an interest and appreciation of things natural is something merely incidental, even peripheral to the more important and significant things in our daily lives. Not so. Those of us somewhat freed from the continual daily concerns of existence are wonderfully free to ponder and marvel at the things you present, whether large and majestic hawks, or small but elegant lepidopteran larvae.

Again, your website is great, primarily because real people contribute real knowledge and experiences. It's not the birds or the trees. It's the people who reflect on the flora and fauna. Great stuff.