WHAT IS A SYCAMORE?
The sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) is a large, deciduous tree with a straight, cylindrical trunk and erect branches, which form a large, domed crown. The dark green leaves are long and broad, with five pointed lobes and toothed edges. The colouration of the leaves may change to bright yellow in autumn. Sycamore trees can grow to 35m and can live for 400 years.
When a sycamore is young, it has smooth, grey bark, which becomes rougher as it ages, eventually breaking up into scales, exposing the pale brown or pinkish inner bark. The pale green or yellow flowers of this species have very thin petals, a white stamen and bright yellow anthers. After pollination by wind and insects, female flowers develop into distinctive winged fruits known as samaras. Each seed has a long wing, which helps to increase the distance it travels from the parent plant. The seeds of the sycamore are arranged in pairs in a ‘V’ shape.
Having been introduced to the UK in the 17th century, sycamore is particularly tolerant of ‘sea spray’ and may be planted near the coast. Sycamore trees are attractive to aphids and therefore a variety of their predators, such as ladybirds, hoverflies and birds. The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of a number of moths, including the sycamore moth, plumed prominent and maple prominent. The flowers provide a good source of pollen and nectar to bees and other insects, and the seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals.
Sycamore timber is hard and strong, pale cream and with a fine grain. It is used for making furniture and kitchenware as the wood does not taint or stain the food. Trees are planted in parks and large gardens for ornamental purposes. Mature trees are extremely tolerant of wind, so are often planted in coastal and exposed areas, as a wind break. They are also tolerant of pollution and are therefore planted in towns and cities.
While discussing and examining Sycamore seeds we came to the conclusion that a few of us were interested in the speed of the fall that the seed makes – does it depend on the size of the seed, so we thought we would investigate.
We thought that the bigger the seed the faster it would fall – as it is heavier.
Here are our results:
However it is clear from our results that the size of the seed and the speed that it falls have no correlation at all.