Although I have lived in the village for almost 25 years, it was only last month that I really noticed our sycamores. These are the larger cousins of the field maples that surround the village, and have the disadvantage that they are not considered “native”, having come to England only after the last ice age. Because of this we are encouraged to look down on them, to assume that they are not as good for wildlife as the field maple, and hence to view them differently – as outsiders – and so we do. But next May, find the sycamores at the ends of the old road and look at their flowers: long, pale, green cascades, all dangling and delicate, and marvel. Do this before they change into the keys we’re familiar with, and before the trees cast their dense shadows. For theirs is the reverse ugly duckling story where something rather wonderful becomes dull and mundane.
Wordsworth knew well the intensity the sycamore brings. Here’s a brief extract from his Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey:
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
‘Mid groves and copses.