When it comes to nature, and our place in it, we are asked to see the big picture, to recognize that all things are part of a single, larger whole. To see the forest for the trees. In Seeing Trees, Nancy Ross Hugo suggests that to truly appreciate nature’s vitality we must get up close. “There is a tendency,” she writes of trees, “to view them almost like monuments—impressive but inanimate.”
“The real tree, with its enormous trunk and impossibly weighty limbs, can be experienced and understood only by standing under it, with your feet firmly planted under its canopy. Only then can you appreciate its massive bulk, its presence, and its ineffable relationship to you—small, short-lived life form that you are.”
Assisted by Robert Llewellyn’s magnificent photography, Hugo reveals the endearing details of a number of our most common trees with the hope that growing awareness will “help make the world safer for trees.” With that in mind, we’d like to show you one tree in particular, the American sycamore, like you’ve never seen it before.
Bark sloughed off by American sycamore often gathers under the trees and along rivers and streams where it dries and curls into phantasmagorical shapes.
This close-up view reveals the downy hairs covering American sycamore stems and leaves. Collar-like fused stipules and new leaves are also visible emerging from the stem on the bottom.
American sycamore balls, made up of tightly aggregated seeds (achenes), usually remain on the tree over the winter and break up the following spring, dispersing their seeds.
On this twig, male American sycamore flowers appear in the lower right (the greenish ball), female flowers in the upper left (the reddish ball).
In fall, American sycamore leaves turn shades of gold and brown.
The American sycamore, in all its glory.
Click image for a look inside this book:
My favorite new book this season…made for us nearsighted gardeners, who long ago learned the thrill of peering at plants. —Dominique Browning