For this nature adventure, you will need: A country hedgerow, city park or field edge nature walk; your nature activity books or nature journal; a pen or pencil and some crayons and a sycamore tree.
Your task for this adventure, is: To find a sycamore tree, explore it and complete a field record for your activity book or nature journal.
About The Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)
Sycamore or Acer Pseudoplatanus, is a very common tree. It is frequently found in parklands, along the edges of fields and in hedgerows bordering country lanes.
Characteristics: Sycamore is easy to identify once you know what to look for. In late winter and spring, sycamore is readily identified by its buds. They are pale green and scaly, with little black tips at the end of each scale. During the summer months, you can spot them by their star-like leaves and clusters of pale, yellow-green flowers. Finally, autumn brings with it sycamore’s famous helicopter seed.
All the features of sycamore often overlap – you might find buds, leaves, flowers and seeds all at the same time. Like always, it is important to use all the clues to help identify your tree.
How To Identify A Sycamore Tree
Buds – Sycamore buds are conical, pale green and have little black tips at the end of each leaf scale. If you rummage through a country hedgerow in late winter and spring, you will soon start to spot them. They are pretty unmistakable.
Flowers – Sycamore flowers are a pale, yellow-green in colour, small in size and grow in long, dangly, cone-shaped clusters. Like the buds, they too are unmistakable once you know what you are looking for.
Leaves – Unlike the buds and flowers, sycamore leaves are not as easy to identify. They look very similar to two other common trees – field maple and Norway maple. The way to tell them apart, is to look at the points of the leaf. Sycamore leaves are pointier than field maple, but not as pointy as Norway maple.
Seeds – Just as the leaves of the sycamore can be tricky to identify, the same is true of the seeds. Sycamore seeds, like the leaves, are very similar to the seeds of field maple and Norway maple. But, there is a trick to tell them apart. Sycamore seeds are smaller than the other two and held very close together. Whereas, field maple and Norway maple seeds grow almost horizontally away from each other. You can see them in our field guides.
Your Nature Walk Activity
Hopefully you should not have much trouble locating a sycamore tree. Once you have found one, note down in your journal the date you have found it and the location where you have found it – to help you locate it again. Look for landmarks – what other trees or landscape features are around that spot? Note them all down.
Next, stand right back and make a quick sketch of the shape and outline of the tree. How does it look from a distance? How do the leaves move in the wind? What sound does it make? Are there any distinguishing features?
Then move closer. Examine the tree trunk – the texture of the bark, any lenticles, colours or patterns. Look at the leaves – what shape, size and colour are they? How do they feel? Are this any hairs?
If there are seeds, buds of flowers, have a good look at these. Feel them, take in the details. How do the bud scales grow? How many petals are on the flowers? Do they have a small? Where does the seed grow in relation to the wing? How does it fall to the ground?
Take a rubbing of the bark and another of a leaf. Sketch in whichever parts of the tree you can see. Make sure to note down all the details you have noticed – size, shape, colours, texture, smell etc.
Make sure to write the identity of the tree next to your sketches to remind you of it. Try and re-visit the tree in different seasons. How does each part of the tree grow, develop and mature?
Finally, write down any thoughts you have about this tree. What does it remind you of? Can you find out any poems, myths or legends that relate to it? Any particular uses? Note these down alongside your sycamore tree field notes. You can learn more about this tree in the Woodland Trust.
I hope you have enjoyed our sycamore adventure? It would be great to know your thoughts about this post – just leave me a star and a comment in the box below. See you soon for your next adventure and happy nature walking x