In defense of the sycamore

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

SycamoreThe sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) is, in my opinion, a much maligned tree, often regarded as an invasive nuisance, whose timber is regarded as being of little value.

Acer pseudoplatanus, the sycamore maple, is a species of maple native to Central Europe and Southwestern Asia, from France eastwards to Ukraine, and south in mountains to northern Spain, northern Turkey, and the Caucasus.

It is not related to other trees called sycamore or plane tree in the Platanus genus. Its apparent similarity to the species of that genus led to its being named pseudoplatanus, using the prefix pseudo- (from the Ancient Greek for "false").

Other common names for the tree include false plane-tree, great maple, Scottish maple, mock-plane, sycamore, or Celtic maple, and is, in fact a maple, that is to say an Acer and not a Plane, though, as said, often mistakenly called thus by some.

The latest thinking, however, is that this tree may well have come with the Romans to the British Isles, in the same way as did the Coney, the rabbit.

It attracts many insects, its boughs are filled with birds and the quick decay of its fallen leaves encourages worm and insect life on the woodland floor.

Furthermore, its timber is far from useless. The pale soft wood is being highly valued for kitchenware, as it does not taint food and for this reason it was traditionally used to make milk-pails. It is also the wood that has some of the best antibacterial and antiviral properties and thus, again, is very sought after for use in kitchenware.

Yes, it is true that the tree spreads like a weed and turns up almost everywhere. But that is neither here nor there really, as far as I would say, and how many of us can claim a lineage that goes back nearly 2,000 years?

So, therefore, let us celebrate this noble tree with its wonderfully multicolored and mottled bark. After all there is no native wild-wood left in Britain and our lands surely want for the need of beauty provided by a tree that has earned the right to call this land home.

It also is a good firewood, makes excellent charcoal and coppices extremely well. It grows fast and well almost everywhere and we would do well to just manage it for what it is; a useful tree.

© 2013