Saturday, November 19, 2011

bigleaf maple and CA sycamore ~ 11/19/11 ~ Garland Ranch

bigleaf maple (left) and California sycamore (right)

Both these deciduous trees are native to California and provide lovely autumn colors. They can be quite tall, so it's difficult to compare the shapes of the leaves when they're too high to examine. It's taken me until this hike, when the forest floor is littered, to truly distinguish the leaves. For the longest time, I thought Garland only had one native large-leaved tree, that being the bigleaf maple. I was wrong. Considering the place used to be a ranch, I figured any sycamores I found were non-native. I've corrected past posts to reflect my new understanding, like last November's Garzas Creek habitat post.

bigleaf maple
Acer macrophyllum
Sapindaceae (formerly Aceraceae)

Notice the 5 deep lobes of the leaf? The vertically grooved bark, often covered in moss or lichen, reminds me very much of walnut trees. Other eastern North American counterparts are red maple (Acer rubrum), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), and sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Despite what the USDA PLANTS database shows, the silver maple is not native to CA.

western sycamore / California sycamore
Platanus racemosa

What originally confused me about the leaves is the CA sycamore's can have 3 or 5 lobes. I can usually recognize sycamore bark by its sickly, puzzle-like look - yep, that's my own highly technical description. Its eastern North American counterpart is American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis).

bigleaf maple

In a previous post from this summer, I showed how big the CA sycamore leaves get, which can be considerably larger than the bigleaf maple. Happy fall!

ps 11/29/11 - I'm glad I don't have to deal with the differences between sycamore maples and field maples like they do over in the UK, The Squirrelbasket and Loose and Leafy.


camissonia said...

Love the hand shot on the bigleaf maple! Puts things into perspective...California Sycamores are native here on the Santa Rosa Plateau and their fall colors are gorgeous, at least for our neck of the woods. Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii, native to AZ & NM) is another very similar and also common landscape tree here in SoCal.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Thanks, Arlene. I wanted to show that they're not kidding when they say "bigleaf." I think the Arizona sycamore is the third species native to North America; everything else is introduced. I'll have to take a look to see what kind of sycamores they planted in downtown Monterey, which really give the place a feeling of autumn right now.

Jennifer said...

The streets where I grew up in Palo Alto are lined with giant Sycamores. I took it for granted until I moved away. When I returned after being gone a long time I was struck be how beautiful those trees are, especially when there are so many together. I used to jump into piles of the leaves as a kid, and collect beautiful ones that I liked. I will always love sycamores.