Sycamore Maple - Acer pseudoplatanus

The Sycamore Maple tree (species: Acer pseudoplatanus) is a member of the Maple tree family and occurs naturally in Europe and Southwestern Asia. The images in this blog were taken of a tree in Spain. The scientific name "Acer pseudoplatanus" is composed of two latin names. The first "Acer" means Maple and identifies the genus to which this tree belongs. The second part "pseudoplatanus" means "false Plane" or "false Sycamore". This is a reference to the fact that this tree can be easily confussed with "Sycamore" trees in the genus "Platanus". The "London Plane", for example has very similar leaves to the Sycamore Maple.

Above - detail of the Sycamore maple flower. Below - detail of the leaf and branch.

This tree can be easily identified as a Maple by its winged seeds (called samaras). Each seed has a "wing" that is about 1-1.3 inches long and is paired with another seed. These pairs in turn a grouped in a cluster of about 15-30 pairs. They are green at first and then turn a tan colour when mature. The wings help these seeds be dispursed by wind action.

Another way to tell the difference between the Sycamore Maple and the true Sycamore or Plane tree is by the bark. True Sycamores and Planes have a smooth bark that peels off in large sections.
The image below is of an old drawing of this tree species.
Other Maples that I have blogged about are...
Vine Maple
Big Leaf Maple
Red Maple
Boxelder Maple
Montpellier Maple

King of the Urban Forest - Paris

There is a tree species that in my opinion deserves the title of "King of the Urban Forest". This tree is known in the English language as the London Plane tree (species: Platanus x hispanica). In this post I am going to highlight this tree in the city of Paris, France where it is known as the "Platane Commun" or "platane à feuille d'érable" (which means "Maple Leaf Plane"). The first two pictures in this post (above and below) are of the "Avenue des Champs-Élysées" which is lined on both sides by rows of London Plane trees. Many consider this street to be the most beautiful in the world. It stands to reason that the most beautiful urban street should be lined with the tree that I am calling the King of the Urban Forest.

The next picture (below) is of a group of about five London Plane trees at one end of the Notre-Dame Cathedral which is the the seat of the Archbishop of Paris and one of the most visited Cathedrals in the world. Again, it seems fiting that the tree species chosen to adorn the plaza in front of the Cathedral should be London Planes. The statue in front of the trees is of Charlemagne.

The next image is of the "Place de la Nation" plaza on the east side of Paris. On the inside of its large traffic circle (the French seem to like large traffic circles!) there are a number of large London Plane trees like the one in the photo.

I´m not exactly sure who the statue is of in the next image but the tree behind the statue is a fine example of yet another London Plane. This tree is one of many that can be found in the "Jardin des Tuileries" that stretches from the "Lourve" to the "Place de la Concorde" plaza.

The last picture is of a colonnade like row of London Planes in the "Jardin des Plantes" botanical garden.

check out my post about an Osage Orange by the Eiffel Tower.

Oriental Arborvitae or Biota - Platycladus orientalis

The Oriental Arborvitae tree or "Biota" (species name: Platycladus orientalis) is a common ornamental evergreen tree that is originally native to Northwest China. This tree used to be thought to belong to the "Thuja" genus but is not considered to be the only species in the genus "Platycladus".

This tree can be distiguished from other similar trees in the Juniper and Cypress families by the unique shape of its cones which appear to have a series of horn like scale tips that are curved. As can be appreciated in the pictures above and below the scale like leaves of the oriental arborvitae are not sharp and pointy like some of the Junipers that look similar.

Another distiction of this species is that its foliage gives off very little scent. The drawing below dates from 1870 (public domain) and was drawn by Philipp Franz von Siebold and Joseph Gerhard Zuccarini. In the name "oriental arborvitae" oriental refers to the fact that it is from China and arborvitae is latin for "tree of life" refering to the fact that this tree is slow growing and long lived.

The sign below from the University of Malaga botanical garden illustrates the fact that this tree is still classified by some as pertaining to the Thuja genus.

River Red Gum - Eucalyptus camuldulensis

The River Red Gum tree (species name: Eucalyptus camuldulensis) is a common "Gum" tree along river beds across inland Australia and is also a popular plantation tree in many other parts of the world. In Southern Europe and Northern Africa the River Red Gum can be found growing spontaneously along water ways downstream from where it has been planted in plantations. The term "Red" in its common name refers to the color of its wood when milled.
Like many other Eucalyptus trees the flowers of the River Red Gum have a cone shaped cap that protects the flower while it is forming and then pops off when the flower is ready to "unfold" as can be seen in the images below.

The individual flowers are arranged in small clusters that themselves are star shaped like the one above. The picture below shows some of the detached "caps" that pop off the end of the flower buds.
After the flowers have wilted and fallen off there remains on the tree a cluster of small "fruits" that have valve like openings on the end in a star like shape. As you can see in the image below these star-like openings can have 3-6 points. The seeds inside these small fruits are released through these openings. These woody, dried fruits can be easily found at the base of the River Red Gum trees and is a good way to help identify the tree and distinguish it from other Gums.

The large tree in the image below is a tree in the "Molino de Inca" botanical garden in Torremolinos, Spain (along the Southern "Sun Coast"). It is quite common to find large specimens of the Eucalyptus camuldulensis in botanical gardens in Spain.

The leaves of the River Red Gum are long and slender with a pronounced central vein. They measure about 4-7 inches in length and about 1 inch in width.

Some other Gum trees that I have blogged about are...
Coral Gum Tree - Eucaluptus Torquata
Tasmanian Blue Gum - Eucalyptus Globulus
What makes Eucalyptus fires dangerous

Royal Poinciana - Delonix regia

The Royal Poinciana tree (Species name: Delonix regia) is native to Madagascar and is an attractive ornamental tree that is widely cultivated around the world in temperate climates. The most striking characteristic of this tree is its brightly colored flowers that range from red to orange or even yellow. Because of these bright flowers this tree is sometimes called a "flame tree" (there are several different tree species that have this distinction).

The image above shows some of the flower color variation on the same tree.
The leaves of the Royal Poinciana are very similar to those of the Blue Jacaranda (although they are not in the same family) and if the trees and young and not in bloom they can be hard to tell apart. Check this link for a discussion of how to distinguish them.

Like the Jacaranda the Royal Poinciana makes for a good shade tree partly because of the fact that it tends to grow not very tall and with a broad crown like the one in the picture above.

What makes Eucalyptus fires in Australia so dangerous?

With the recent news coming out of Southern Australia one is left asking the question "What makes the forest fires in Southern Australia so dangerous and deadly?"

Here are some answers that I have found while reading up on this...
  1. Dry conditions - Australia has a lot of dry areas. Most of the Eucalyptus tree species have adapted to these dry conditions and some of them can grow in almost desert like conditions. Just this alone is a receipt for fires, trees and very dry conditions.
  2. Peeling bark - Eucalyptus trees have smooth bark that peels off in long strips and falls to the ground. This gives any fire an abundance of material to burn on the ground as it spreads.
  3. Flammable leaves - Eucalyptus leaves are very flammable adding to the material on the ground to keep the fire going.
  4. Dependent on fires - Some species of Eucalyptus can form thickets and actually need fires to clear out the competition.
  5. Flammable oils - ome Eucalyptus trees such as the "Blue Gum" produce flammable oils that make the trees either burn with incredible intensity or even explode. The Blue Gum has been called "Gasoline trees" for this reason.
a large Blue Gum tree
a quote from
Of the many eucalyptus species that evolved with fire, none is more incendiary than blue gum. "Gasoline trees," firefighters call them. Fire doesn't kill blue gums. Rather, they depend on fire to open their seedpods and clear out the competition. And they promote fire with their prolific combustible oil, copious litter, and long shreds of hanging bark designed to carry flames to the crowns. Blue gum eucalyptus doesn't just burn, it explodes, sending firebrands and seeds shooting hundreds of feet in all directions. Living next to one of these trees is like living next to a fireworks factory staffed by chain-smokers.
Blue Gum bark

White Sapote - Casimiroa edulis

I came across this White Sapote tree (scientific name:Casimiroa edulis or zapote Blanco in Spanish). The leaves of the tree palmate with pronounced darker gree veins on the newer leaves. The leaflets were about 4-5 inches long and had smooth margins.
I believe this tree is fairly representative of a full size tree. It stood about 5-6 meters (20-25 feet) tall. I don´t think that I would have been able to identify the tree had it not been for the sign at the base that gave its identity away. According to the sign this tree is native to Southern Mexico and central America.
The fruit of the White Sapote is a "drupe" that measure about 4-6 cm in diameter with a dark green exterior until ripe.
If this tree was at all representative of its species they do not seem to produce an abundance of fruit. There may have been about 50 fruits growing on the tree.