In the depth of winter . . .

and looking from the south bank of the James River just west of the Huguenot Bridge, I see Canada geese turning tail to sky as their heads submarine to the river bottom.  Vacationing buffleheads on winter vacation from Canada twinkle like white stars on the  surface as they take turns diving for their portion.  From a distance the dense stand of trees on the northern bank form a tangled mass in varying shades of grey and brown. A dense, mostly homogenous throng of Virginia natives. But there is one species in the crowd that has waited for just this time of tree dormancy to distinguish itself. This sleeping beauty is the great, white monarch of the river’s edge – the sycamore tree.

Sycamore in Winter

The White Monarch of the Winter Forest

Richmond’s native trees typically capture our attention with their clothes on, adorned by  flowers, fruits and foliage. But the sycamore is best appreciated when stripped down to a white skeleton. Fruit balls persist on the tree over winter before breaking up into downy fluff that carries the tiny fruitlets far and wide on wind and water.