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.