Known also as The Great Maple or False Plane,
the Sycamore is not a native tree, but appears
to have been introduced from the Continent in
the fifteenth century. It is, therefore, well
established among us, and by means of its winged
seeds distributes itself to remote corners of
our islands. It appears to be fond of exposed
situations, growing to a large size even near
the sea, where the salt-laden gales would destroy
all other deciduous trees.
It grows to a height of sixty or even eighty feet
so quickly that it is full-grown when only fifty
or sixty years old, though it is supposed to live
from 150 to 250 years.
The wood of the Sycamore is firm and fine-grained,
and although it can be worked with ease, it is
not highly esteemed.
The leaves are heart-shaped and cut into five
lobes, whose edges are unequally toothed; they
are six or eight inches across. The black patches
so frequently seen on Sycamore leaves are the
work of a small fungus – Rhytisma acerinum.
The flowers are similar to those of the Field
Maple, but larger, and in a long hanging raceme.
The “keys” are scimitar-shaped about
an inch and a half long, and red-brown in colour.
These are produced freely after the tree is about
twenty years old.
Like many other Maples, the Sycamore has sap which
contains much sugar. Some of this appears also
to exude through the leaves.
The Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) is a tree
of much more recent (1683) introduction from the
Continent. Its height is from thirty up to as
much as ninety feet, and its early growth is very
rapid. The leaves are even larger than those of
the Sycamore, of similar shape, but the lobes
are only slightly toothed. The clusters of bright
yellow flowers appear before the leaves. The tree
does not produce seed until it is between forty
and fifty years old.