round brown heads hanging
from sycamore's slender stems --
In the spongy remains of snow beneath the mottled gray and tan and white bark of a tall American Sycamore, I find one frozen orange-brown ball beside a few large orange leaves. The tree has shed all of its immense leaves, as big as both of my hands, but many of the round fruits will hang like golden ornaments from the branches all winter. When the brown balls, the size of a cherry tomato, fall to the ground, they break open, releasing many seeds to the wind. The sycamore's scaly appearance is due to the bark being more rigid than most trees, so that it splits and peels off as the trunk expands. A sycamore can grow to enormous dimensions, 30-40 m (98-130 ft) high and 1.5-2 m (4.9-6.6 ft) in diameter. George Washington recorded a sycamore growing near the junction of the Kanawha with the Ohio River that measured nearly 14 m (45 ft) around at 91 cm (3 ft) from the ground. Some Native American tribes would use an entire trunk to make a dugout canoe. Nowadays, the heavy wood is used for furniture, paneling and butcher's blocks, as it is extremely difficult to split.