Dandelions are famous for their parachute seeds. Sycamore seeds have short parachutes.
Sycamore trees live along creeks and rivers so they love water. These are among the easy trees to spot. At the base their bark is brown and scaly. Most of the tree sheds this drab bark and stands out gleaming white.
During the summer huge leaves rustle in the wind. The up to a foot across leaves have three main pointed lobes and lots of big jagged teeth along the leaf margins. The day after killing frost these big leaves drop like rain blanketing the creek and ground.
In the early spring the trees are adorned by small brown balls hanging on four inch tethers. These are the balls of seeds.
Warm weather makes the balls puff up as the seeds detach from a center globe. Gusts of wind start carrying these seeds off floating on their parachutes.
Unlike dandelion parachutes with their gossamer threads, sycamore seed parachutes are short and thick. They must serve double duty. First they let the seed drift off on the wind. If the seed drops into the creek, they become life preservers floating the seeds down the creek until they lodge on a bank or sand or gravel bar.
Most of the sycamore trees along our creek don’t last very long. By the time they are a foot across, the creek has undermined their roots. The tree falls.
Torn up roots leave behind a new hole in the creek, a place of deep water often enlarged by floods. Six inch minnows, crayfish, small blue gill and other fish move in to enjoy the pool.
Down hear the upper reaches of the Meramec River the sycamores get much larger. Several of them are truly magnificent trees with trunks far too large to reach around. I shall have to go walking along the river more often to admire these beautiful trees.