Posts Tagged ‘Buttonwood’


I like to think that I’m as aware of my surroundings as the next person, but sometimes I’ll see something that makes me wonder if I haven’t been walking through life with my eyes completely closed.  That happened recently with the pale looking tree in the photo below.

 I’ve been driving by this tree literally for decades, but only recently saw it. From the road I thought it was the bleached out corpse of a tree that had died. I could tell that it wasn’t a birch, (which is what you would expect a white tree to be in New Hampshire) but I wasn’t sure what it was. One day my curiosity got the better of me and I stopped to explore the ghost tree. 

As I got closer I could see that its wound was even bigger than I first thought, but still couldn’t tell what it was until saw the bark close up.

 Only one tree I know of has bark like this; sycamore. Sycamore? But sycamores don’t grow in New Hampshire, do they? I began looking on the ground for seed heads. Sure enough, the ground was littered with them. I brought one home and took pictures.

 Up in the tree there were a few more. These give the tree one of its common names: Buttonwood

 There was no doubt that it was a sycamore. As if to confirm this, just down the road there was another one with bark that was even more mottled than the first. I think I have since found a third, but it is on private property and I haven’t been able to get close enough to it to confirm it. How I’ve lived in this state for over 50 years without seeing one before, I don’t know.

As it turns out, parts of New Hampshire and southern Maine are the north eastern limit for the American Sycamore (Platanusoccidentalis), which is the largest hardwood tree east of the Mississippi River. Or at least they can be-the ones that I found weren’t that big.

They are also called American Plane trees, and I’ve read that they are common in the flood plains of the Ashuelot River north of Surry Mountain Lake in Walpole, NH, along Great Brook, also in Walpole, and along the North River in Lee, NH. There are also quite large stands of American Hornbeam, or muscle wood in these same flood plains. One day soon I’ll be headed north to see them. I don’t know if they are rare in New Hampshire, but I’ve never seen one until recently and I don’t remember ever hearing the old timers speak of sycamores.

Anyone who would like to see these trees in Keene can find them on route 101 from Marlborough just after the small pond on the right that is a short distance before the Optical Ave. turnoff.

Since my son just graduated Air Force basic training yesterday and is now an Airman, I thought this post about the “camouflage tree” would be appropriate.




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