Winter Interest: Sycamore


Platanus occidentalis; Platanaceae

Have you ever looked at a riverbank in the winter and wondered “what’s wrong with all those trees”?  The ones that looks like ghost trees are sycamores.  They are among the largest trees in the eastern US, growing to 140 feet tall and as much as 12 feet in diameter!  They prefer the moist soils of bottomlands but in parts of their range can be found colonizing old field uplands.  The bark exfoliates,


leaving much of the tree white, and giving the impression that it’s dead.  But it isn’t. Just a little more naked than most, and patiently waiting for spring to get its green back.



a lovely old tree frames the Great Falls Tavern, C&O Canal NHP.






sycamore reflected in the canal





(All images from December, 2014)

Winter Interest: Tuliptree


aka tulip poplar, yellow poplar, white poplar, whitewood; Liriodendron tulipifera; Magnoliaceae

Tuliptree blooms in late May; once the flower drops, these nifty seedheads remain, but are hidden from view until the leaves drop.


in flower, late May








ps – don’t confuse this with true poplars (genus Populus), which are in the willow family (Salicaceae)