Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Just Grow It! Anything BUT American Sycamore

Consider yourself warned-today it's all about ranting.

The front of my house faces south.  Sixty or so years ago someone had the good sense to plant a couple of shade trees in the front yard.  Unfortunately one of them was a Sycamore.  Every day as I'm picking up debris or surveying the devastation and wondering how I'm going to find the time to pick up debris I ask myself why one of them had to be a Sycamore.  Why?  Why not a beautiful tri color beech?  Even another sugar maple would have been a better choice. 

Believe it or not at one time I actually had two of these monstrous trees on my quarter acre lot.  Had is the operative word.  Just over two years ago I finally got tired of having my patio and back garden look like crap so I hired a tree company to remove the dual trunk hundred plus foot Sycamore from my back yard.

Beautiful wasn't it?  Don't be fooled.  If you find yourself enamored with them visit an arboretum or stroll through a forest.  Befriend someone who enjoys hours of unnecessary work or who doesn't mind a messy yard and coerce them to plant one.  Or go to Rome.  Imagine my surprise when, on a trip to Italy a few years ago I discovered Sycamore to be the street tree of choice in Vatican City.  Now I know the real reason why the Popemobile is enclosed in bulletproof glass.  Whatever you do don't plant one in your own yard.


Because the back yard behemoth was inaccessible to equipment the tree contractor had to bring in a climber.  I had to dismantle part of a stone wall so a skid loader could access the back garden and remove the house rattling sections of trunk as they crashed to the ground.  In advance of the onslaught I moved as many plants out of the way as I could but had to sacrifice many others.  After the tree guys packed up and left it took weeks to clean up and rebuild the back garden. was worth every cent.  It was the best four grand I ever spent.

When life hands you Sycamores, make Sycamore stumps.

Trust me, these trees are a freakin' mess!  Twelve months of the year they rain bark, branches and leaves all over every surface of your yard and garden.  In the spring you can look forward to noxious anthracnose leaf litter.  In the summer it's bark.  Every time the wind blows, twigs and branches fall like rain.  No way could I treat for anthracnose or completely clean up the litter-the tree is just too big. 

In Sycamoreville, fall arrives in May and lasts through November.  Currently my front garden is covered with dried up diseased leaves.  I'm sick over it, sick of it and literally sick from it.  Anthracnose fungal spores are incredibly irritating and cause instant allergy like symptoms.  Until all the dead leaves are off the tree it makes no sense to clean up so I have to live with this look for over a month.  But maybe not next year.  Compared to the back yard version, the tree in front is smaller and located next to the road so it would be far less expensive to remove.  Even though I'd be dead before anything I plant in it's place would be mature enough to shade the house, I'd like to think that in fifty years some new homeowner won't be cursing me as a tree contractor lines up the trucks and fires up the chainsaw. 

Last October the freak snow storm we experienced in Connecticut wreaked havoc on the Sycamore.  During the night I kept waking up to the sounds of loud cracking and crashing.  When the sun came up I couldn't believe the devastation.  Fortunately my house was spared but my front yard was impassable.  Mature shrubs were crushed and reduced to rubble.  When the bucket truck sent by the power company arrived to trim the remaining branches dangling precariously over the power lines to my house, I was informed in conversation that Sycamores were messy trees.  Ummm...ya think?


  1. Oh. My.

    You have to see our neighborhood, a new development in a town that requires two shade trees to be planted in every yard before the builder leaves. Very forward and green thinking, but no specification on what kind of tree to put on a quarter to half acre lot. So, we have 70 new homes on tiny lots with not one but two sycamores planted in front of every home all up and down the streets. The ones that don't have sycamores got Norway maples. That's 140 monster trees, lined up almost touching each other even now as young saplings.

    Oh. My.

    I like your sycamore stumps.

  2. Neither of those trees is suitable for a small lot or as a yard tree. Can you remove them and replace with something else (and encourage some of your neighbors to do the same)? There are so many better and more ornamental choices!

    Most of the homes on my street were built in the early 40s so there are many (too many) large mature trees on the street. Two years ago my 95 year old neighbor (to the east) had to move to a nursing facility. A young couple bought her house and have rejuvenated it. Last spring they removed five large trees from the front and back yard in addition to the four small dogwoods they removed from the front right after they moved in. It was a forest over there. Even though they left a large maple in front and back the morning light in my garden is sooo much better. Even the shade plants are happier.

  3. Yea Sue, lose the disease ridden tree!