The Landing

Outside on a comfortable–warm, in fact–February afternoon, chasing the earliest emerged native bees in my garden and with some success, I spied this charming scene:

I like that the seed balances on the slender arm of a Globe mallowSphaeralcea ambigua, and appears steady and content, perky and upright.

I wonder, though, is it satisfied with the landing?  Afterall, this particular seed is from an American SycamorePlatanus occidentalis, and the goal of the wind-driven reproductive morsel is terra firma–which it missed by about 18 inches.  The achene, with attached propelled pappus, was driven from a nearby mature sycamore by puffs or bluffs of wind.  Who knows when the seed landed on the mallow, probably recently, but is it eager to be whooshed by air or washed by rain to the ground for continuation of the adult sycamore’s legacy?

The Globe mallow ignores the seed–it has its own blooming and reproduction to consider.

How many of us land like the seed, or ignore those who land around us?  How does that impact the course of life?

Joining in today with Anna’s  Flutter and Hum and her wonderful Wednesday Vignette.  Please pop over for garden, nature, and other musings.


A Sycamore Year

It’s a year since I began the monthly profile of my American sycamore, Platanus occidentalis.  A year ago, blue sky prevailed in the first photos of the sycamore and the sycamore sparkled in sunshine.  Today, like much of this past week, is gray, with the addition of wet.

The sycamore drips.


This year was a (relatively) wet one here in Central Texas and also more moderate in temperatures than the previous year or so.  As a result, most of the leaves remain on my sycamore, (in contrast to many seasons, by no means all), where the tree loses upwards to one-third of its leaves due to summer’s heat and seasonal drought.


Sycamore leaves have fallen to the ground,


…but blanketing of the garden,



…of pathways,



…and of work spaces,


…has barely begun.  For now, the smattering of discarded foliage is a mere suggestion of the colossal coverage that is in the gardens’, and therefore, the gardener’s, near future. Multitudes of the sturdy, and if I might suggest, awkward, leaves will drop in the next two months.That means plenty of raking in December and early January.

My back aches just thinking about it.

I’ll add some leaves directly my compost bin and shred some others for the garden and compost bin, but most will end up in my yard-waste bins,  picked up weekly by the diligent sanitation workers of the City of Austin.


Will the rejected leaves end up in the municipal landfill?  No, they won’t–and that’s a good thing. The leaves, along with tons of other “yard waste” will be composted with biosolids from city sewage treatment, cooked and cured into an excellent garden amendment called Dillo Dirt. Since I compost, I haven’t purchased Dillo Dirt as a soil amendment in many years, but it’s great for gardeners to use for enriching poor soil and it’s safe for all gardens, including vegetable gardens.


Currently, sycamore leaf color varies–green, yellow, brown.


Once massive foliage color transformation occurs, the tree will change its leafy coverage from growing-season green, to sleepy-time yellow, with some warm toast thrown in for good measure.



I like my American sycamore.

I didn’t for a long time, simply viewing it as a high-maintenance mess, with its thick leaves and a cast of deep shade.  In recent years and especially in this last year of following the monthly evolution of my American sycamore, observing arboreal nuance  in ways that I hadn’t previously, I’ve grown to appreciate the handsome bark,


…and the  valuable cover this large tree provides for wildlife–and for me–in the long, hot Texas summers.  Rather than a tree that I think of as simply a producer of leaf-clutter, I now regard my American sycamore as an important partner in the wildlife habitat that I choose to nurture.


Thanks to Pat for hosting Tree Following, the meme for trees.  Check out The Squirrelbasket to learn about trees from all over the world.

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.