Flexible Foliage

Leaves on my American sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, are useful indeed.  They provide beauty in waving flags of luscious green,


…and cooling shade for the trunk and anything (or anyone) else beneath the canopy.

The sycamore tree  exfoliates beautifully, revealing creamy white new bark.


Sycamore foliage also provides shelter for a bird home and a nursery for bird babies.


Only recently have I spotted this nest in the sycamore.  I was standing in a part of my property where I don’t usually hang out, when I saw a nest structure nestled in the lower part of the tree. There are no birds there now, no doubt their having fledged earlier this summer. I’m not sure how I missed seeing it before now, but going forward,  better tree observance is in order.


Handsome, peeling limbs serve as strong foundational support for the nest.

I suspect it was a Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata, nest because I know that they were active in the tree earlier in the summer–they’re wonderfully gregarious birds and even if I don’t see them, I hear them.  Plus, in perusing photos of nests, Blue Jays appear to favor building with larger sticks, which I guess makes sense because they are large-ish birds.

Dropped sycamore leaves are also versatile on terra firma.  Dead, downed, and brown leaves provide cover along the soil and pathways,


…though that can be annoying when they drift to the gardens or patio and cluster, becoming garden “detritus.” Because of the wet year, there wasn’t as much shedding of sycamore foliage as is typical, but some dropped.


I find the large, thick leaves graceful and lovely ON the tree, but awkward and messy on the ground and in the garden.

On occasion I’ve used a leaf as a tool to pick up and remove an insect that I’m squeamish about, or  to remove fresh goo (use your own imagination on that one) from lawn furniture surface or a  birdbath.  Never though have I utilized a Sycamore leaf to feed a bee–until about two weeks ago.  I watched an American bumblebeeBombus pensylvanicus, cruise along the ground in my back garden one morning.  I suspect that it was near the end of its life, because it wasn’t flying and bees fly when they’re healthy and productive, but not when they’re dying.  At some point, I thought that some sugar-water might be in order to nourish and reinvigorate the bee.  Per my knowledge of feeding honeybees, I mixed a tiny amount of white sugar with water, (30% sugar to 70% water).  I found a sturdy Sycamore leaf which had a slightly convex shape and poured the liquid in. Placed in the path of the bumble bee, it eventually found the leafed treat and enjoyed a snack.



He/she sipped and slurped for several minutes.



It vacated the sugar-water leaf for a time, but returned for more of the sweet stuff.

Eventually, the bumble left  for unknown parts–I didn’t see it again.  Ants moved in for the remaining sugary drink, and by later in the day the leaf was back to playing the role of a brown and crispy leaf, or, garden detritus–take your pick.

My American sycamore has retained most of its leaves this year and is full-foliage as we enter into fall.


I’m glad there was at least one leaf that could be put to use for the wayward, and perhaps hungry or thirsty, American bumblebee.


A few days late for Tree Following, I’m thanking Pat of The Squirrelbasket for graciously hosting this fun and interesting meme about trees. Check out her blog to learn about trees from all over the world.


14 thoughts on “Flexible Foliage

    • Thanks, Beth–it was purely self-interest 🙂 I was please to be so close to the beauty and watch it for a time. They fly fast through the garden, taking care of business and this was an opportunity to watch. I agree that the sycamore is special–I’m glad it’s on my property.


  1. Sycamores are a favorite of mine: I think partly because their white bark reminds me of the birches of my childhood. Your tale of bee-feeding is delightful, and a reminder to get the hummingbird feeders hung. I may have to give up feeding sunflower hearts for a time. I have one pigeon who’s learned how to cling to the tube feeder just long enough, wings flailing, to tip it and dump seed to the ground for its buddies. I can’t afford to feed 40 pigeons — they little feathered vacuum cleaners.

    You reminded me, too, of a lovely poem by Wendell Berry called “The Sycamore.” Here are the first lines; you can read the rest here.

    “In the place that is my own place, whose earth
    I am shaped in and must bear, there is an old tree growing,
    a great sycamore that is a wondrous healer of itself…”


    • Sycamores do have similar bard to birches–that beautiful white! It’s always fascinating how wildlife adapts to what we “place” out for them, whether in plant or feeder form.

      Lovely poem–it captures the beauty and toughness of this tree!


  2. Tina su Sicómoro americano – Platanus occidentalis- es especial albergando vida. En España tenemos el Platanus Hispanicus que es muy parecido, casi igual, al Sycamore. Su Sycamore ha llegado lleno de follaje verde al principio del Otoño : los miedos de principio de Verano sobre un virus que secaban las hojas se superó. Gracias por dar de comer al Abejorro Americano enfermo en una hoja de Sycamore. Se curó. Saludos de Margarita.


      • El Platanus Hispanicus crece rápido y da una gran sombra. Ahora se despoja de su corteza y se queda blanco. Llegan a ser muy altos : superan un 6º piso de un edificio, y albergan nidos y muchos pájaros. Crecen muy bien en las ciudades : nos dan oxígeno ; y también el el campo. La hoja es igual al Sycamore. El abejorro fue ayudado y salvado seguro Mamá Abeja¡¡¡¡¡¡ Saludos de Margarita desde España.


  3. Fascinating – and thoughtful – post!
    There should be a competition for “100 things to do with a leaf”.
    There’s so much of interest in this post – I’m not sure I have ever noticed trees exfoliating and new bark coming through. And the nest is exciting…
    All the best 🙂


  4. Pingback: Tree following link box for September 2016 | The Squirrelbasket

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