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Forest confession

Sycamores, also commonly referred to as planetree and buttonwood, are deciduous trees with spreading branches. They can reach impressive heights of roughly 120 feet, and produce dense spherical fruits about an inch in diameter that appear to dangle like decorations from the branches.
TRR photos by Sandy Long


January 27, 2016

True confession—I am a nemophilist. And as a reader of “River Talk,” I’d hazard to say that you are probably one, too.
Now don’t be insulted. In fact, the term applies to “one who is fond of forest or forest scenery; a haunter of the woods; one who loves the forest and its beauty and solitude.”

We are not alone in our admiration, following paths forged by forest lovers like John Muir, who wrote, “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”

I am usually carrying a camera while “haunting the woods.” Much of what I share here is harvested from rambles around the Upper Delaware River region. It’s an evolving exploration of this place I think of as home.

In upcoming columns, I’ll occasionally offer a closer look at some of the tree species common to our region and its forests. But I begin with a tree that, while not frequently found in forests, is one of my favorites and highly visible at this time of year.

Sycamore trees are most often seen growing in the riparian zones or floodplains of rivers and streams. Their stunning white branches, currently devoid of foliage, are vivid now against the dense blue skies and fierce light of a clear winter day.

They make an appearance in many a song, like the classic, “Dream A Little Dream of Me,” recorded by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, The Mamas and the Papas and more:
“Stars shining bright above you / Night breezes seem to whisper, ‘I love you” / Birds singing in the sycamore tree / Dream a little dream of me.”

With that tune rattling around in your head, make your way “into the universe” by haunting the woods and plying the waterways for sycamores (and fellow nemophilists!).