Islander's Musings: Sycamore Leaves

-- By David Winer

Sycamore Islander, December 2002

The Editors received a letter recently from Claire Collins Conner of Michigan about a strange leaf she and her husband, Don, found near their retirement home. They wondered if it could be a sycamore leaf, but were unsure because of the unusually large size. They decided to send the leaf to “Sycamore Island” for identification.

Well, we were just as unsure about this leaf as the Conners, so sent scans of the leaf to two botanists, inquiring if the leaf was from a sycamore tree. There are imported plane trees that that resemble sycamores, but no one felt confident to make a call from such limited data.

There the matter stood until on November 26, Joe Hage noted in his Caretakers’ Log (on the Club’s website) that his daughter, Kaylen, had found a sycamore leaf on the Island that was 16 inches across! He also noted that there is "quite a variety of leaves that fall from one sycamore. Some large some small, some with many peaks and some with so few peaks they resemble sweet gum leaves."

This fairly well settles the matter—the Conners’ leaf is likely not from some strange giant-leafed variety of sycamore, but now appears quite normally within the range of ordinary specimens. Judge for yourself from these photos.

Kaylen’s leaf (top) is sixteen inches wide,
definitely from a sycamore. Some of its
edges have crumbled off. This individual
seems to lack the familiar characteristic shape
we normally associate with the tree’s leaf.

This fellow is also a sycamore on the
Island, an example that Joe Hage
observes has an appearance akin
to a sweet gum leaf.

In comparison, the Conners’ leaf,
although unusually large, doesn’t seem
so strange after all. It’s smaller and
looks more “sycamore-like” than the
above leaf.
Our logo -- with the quintessential sycamore leaf pattern.