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The Tuesday tree: Four seasons of a sycamore

November 22, 2011

Something I haven’t yet done in these Tuesday tree posts is to show one tree through the changing seasons. It seems an obvious subject for Dancing Beastie: high time I tried to address it. Growing in a pasture near the river, there is a rather beautiful sycamore which I have grown fond of on my daily walks. It has featured here before, so please excuse me for reprinting one of the photos as I try to portray it over the course of the year. By the way, I promise these photos are all of the one tree, just taken from different angles!

For around half the year – although I try not to think of this too often, as it’s too depressing – the sycamore is bare of leaves, like many of our other deciduous trees. March and April are tantalising, as the leaf buds begin to swell, thickening the trees’ profiles. At last, usually at the very end of April, the buds burst and we seen the first fresh green of the year. Here is the sycamore in the first week of May 2010. Some of the trees on the bank behind it are still leafless, although the oaks are thick with brown buds and the horse chestnuts are already a strong green.

Within the month, the sycamore’s leaves mature and darken. By the end of May they already provide the thick shade of summer. For the rest of the summer the tree is a haven for sheep and cattle, whether from rain or sun.

Autumn, with its blaze of colour, is one of the highlights of the year for most species of trees. Not so the sycamores. I can’t show you a picture of this tree in its autumn finery, because the leaves just fade to a miserably dull brown before dropping. This year, after the unusually hot spring, the leaves fell early: before the end of October, the tree was almost naked again. Still, at least the beeches and other species behind it provide a warm backdrop.


And so we head again into winter, and the half year when Persephone the nature goddess retreats to the underworld, leaving the trees stark and the earth bare and cold. Even in our temperate climate, it can feel like an awfully long wait for her return.


If you like this one, I’d love you to meet another solitary but friendly sycamore in this post from March.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2011 12:06 am

    Maybe the sycamore decided to follow an old fashion rule: if everyone else is wearing bright colors and florals, wear something subtle, subdued or black to stand out from the crowd. With the chorus girls lineup of flashy colorful trees in back, it looks elegant in its simplicity. Like a confident established star (head held ballerina high) taking final bows on stage. Thanks for these views through the calendar. Nice shots

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 23, 2011 11:08 pm

      What a wonderful thought! 🙂

  2. Val permalink
    November 23, 2011 1:10 am

    That is a beautiful tree in your photos. We have a Sycamore in our garden, the only tree apparently that ‘planted itself’ here, all the rest having been put in by the original owner – who also designed the garden from scratch – and what I love most about it is the way its leaves appear in the Spring, in a lovely yellow lime colour.

    Trees can look very depressing in winter, but I always try to remember that they are only slumbering and that growth is going on very very slowly within them – we just can’t comprehend how slowly it is. Whereas a day is a butterfly’s life, many lifetimes are a tree’s life.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 23, 2011 11:11 pm

      They do seed themselves very successfully, which is why some people despise sycamores as weeds. I love your observation on the timescales of trees. Winter is one of my favourite seasons, partly because of that sense you describe so well: stillness, dormancy, yet with a subtle undercurrent of developing life. A bit like pregnancy, in fact!

  3. November 23, 2011 4:47 pm

    I’ve always .loved sycamore’s, DB, as there was a huge one just down the hill a little from my childhood home. Thank you for these views of your ‘tree for all seasons’ (I think the first post you discovered on my blog was my ash tree one. :-)) Thanks too tor the link to the solitary sycamore post. I really enjoy following the links you put at the end of your posts.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 23, 2011 11:13 pm

      I remember your ash tree post very well, not least as it was indeed the first of yours that I discovered, and it was so lovely to discover someone else who appreciated trees, among other fine things in life!

      Thanks for mentioning the links. I’m delighted to hear that you follow them sometimes – I had been wondering if they were worth continuing.

  4. November 23, 2011 4:47 pm

    Oops – apologies for the misplaced apostrophe. 😦

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 23, 2011 11:14 pm

      Don’t know how it crept in there – must have been when you weren’t looking! 😉

  5. November 23, 2011 6:47 pm

    As always, Beastie your Tuesday tree posting is great! I live in an area where ragged second growth forest is always pushing the limits and one seldom sees a specimen tree like your solitary sycamore. I am watching today as our first snowfall quietly fills the arms of the spruce trees and the quiet so particular to a calm snowfall envelopes the land, no traffic on the road, no howling wind. Nothing to do and nowhere I need to go.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 23, 2011 11:15 pm

      Thank you very much, Janet. What a beautiful description of the first snow of winter: I can just imagine that magical atmosphere. Stay warm.

  6. hmunro permalink
    November 25, 2011 11:02 am

    Oh, wow … wow … wow! What a great idea (to photograph throughout the seasons) — and what a great tree! Thank you for a beautiful respite from urban life.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 25, 2011 10:13 pm

      It’s a beautiful tree, but I wish the photos were better! Never mind, it gives me an incentive to keep trying, keep improving, keep chasing that perfect shot…. 🙂

  7. November 26, 2011 1:03 pm

    OOh thank you for these. As you know the bright Spring colours are my favourite. But I have learned to appreciate all trees when they have dropped their leaves – to admire the beauty of their “skeleton”, and the way they grow their branches so when spring arrives again they provide a rich canopy for birds and beasties to shelter in and under. I love the interpretations of other readers here too!

  8. dancingbeastie permalink*
    November 26, 2011 5:33 pm

    My granny loved the trees in winter best, as they show their ‘bones’ to best advantage then, as you say. She used to love drawing them then.


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