Spring Has Arrived! Part 4: A New Mexican Sycamore

Strolling through a pretty north Albuquerque neighborhood a few days ago, I nearly stumbled over a pile of little brown golfballs. Huh? Not a single putting green in sight, I instantly deduced these carelessly cast-away orbs must be none other than last year’s sycamore fruit balls!

Sure enough, a quick glance upward confirmed my suspicion. I was standing in the shade of a huge, patchy-barked sycamore with draping branches over a stucco wall, approaching full leaf stage, and sporting hundreds of spring green fruit balls each with hundreds of immature arrow-shaped seeds.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Kentucky Coffeetrees lately (which are growing like weeds, thank you!); about how they and many other plant species evolved with seed dispersers that are now extinct (evolutionary anachronism, remember?). This brings me to the sycamore tree.

There are about 6 species of sycamore in the US, and like the one I encountered (the New Mexico Sycamore), all develop large aggregate fruits that mature and hang onto the tree until Spring when the fruit balls drop to the ground and are pretty much ignored. Oh they may get stepped on, mowed over, collected by the curious or eventually decay in place, but unless a flood carries them away, they pretty much stay in place.

It didn’t take much effort to ”tickle” the individual seeds away from the central receptacle with a sharp knife. But I’m puzzled ….. how are the seeds dispersed away from the mother tree? The best chance of a seed germinating and growing into a mature tree happens in full sun, not underneath the canopy of another large sycamore.

So the mystery, in my mind, remains. I’d love to know your ideas. maybe we can do some virtual brainstorming (if that’s still a thing!).

It may not have been a challenging hike in the hills, but I definitely enjoyed some quality time with Luna, and it was a good reminder that discoveries in nature can pop-up anywhere.

Sharing some of my work in progress (WIP) photos. Let me know if you’d like to see more WIP in future posts.

8 Comments

  1. Fun discovery of Sycamore fruit balls! I discovered them recently in our state park and of course I brought one home and dissected it, discovering all the seeds tucked so neatly inside, light as a feather, waiting to be carried by the wind! Imagine if you used them as golf balls, the seeds would be flying everywhere! I did a journal page about it, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, excellent! I’ll search for your journal page! Sycamore is such a cool tree, top to bottom! I love the thought of taking a nine iron to one of the fruit balls! Poof!

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      1. Thanks! My Sycamore page is on the ‘Journal Pages’ page of my website. Somehow I just discovered a lot of the images had disappeared, so I added a few back in. Sycamore is just a few rows down, and I taped some of the seeds to the page!

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      2. Thanks so much Karen!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah Reid says:

    Hello Barb! I am behind in following your posts. I just LOVE the sycamore page, and just as I was wondering “how does she do this, to get the yellow veins?” up scrolled the WIP photos! YES PLEASE! More WIP!! It helps so much for us beginners. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, wonderful comments, Sarah! I love trying my watercolor techniques out on these big leaves. So much easier than micro leaf drawing! Ha! Appreciate your feedback on the WIP pics too. I’ll try to include more, but sometimes I get so involved in my drawings, they are finished before I remember to take photos along the way!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sarah Reid says:

    I’ve wondered about the dispersal of Plane Tree Seeds too. I found a tree growing in the depths of our local state park last year — in a native oak woodland. It was so out of place. The huge leaf structure was what caught my eye: is that some sort of oak hybrid?!? I wonder if birds prize out the seeds to eat and poop them somewhere else? Here comes a dive down an “I wonder…” rabbit hole …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooooo! Let me know what your rabbit hole adventure turns us! Seems if the seeds are tasty for birds, there wouldn’t be any left on the ground under the trees. Thanks for wondering right along with me, and thanks for catching up with my posts! Love your comments Sarah!

      Liked by 1 person

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