In the winter forest, the striking white form of the towering sycamore makes it easy to identify. Because of this distinguishing feature, the Cherokee tribe referred to the sycamore as, the “Ghost of the Forest.” In 1772, The Watauga Association, the first government in what is now Tennessee, was formed under the shade of a sycamore tree. An early settler in the Ohio Territory described a stream bank as “thickly clothed with large sycamore trees whose lofty tops & pendant branches leaned over the shores.” (Fishes of Ohio, M.B. Trautman). Native to the eastern US, sycamores can live for hundreds of years. More than 200 years old and with a 17 ft. circumference, “The Carahills II Family Tree,” a Tennessee Landmark Sycamore, is registered in Galloway, TN (Fayette County).
Although it can be spotted throughout the Memphis area, the sycamore is most abundant along the Wolf and Nonconnah Rivers and their tributaries. Preferring the moist well-drained soil of riverbanks, the Sycamore is essential to riparian health. Its roots stabilize river banks and filter contaminants. The fruit of the sycamore provides food for finches, chickadees, juncos and squirrels. Hollow cavities in older sycamores are often homes to owls, bats, honeybees, & chimney swifts.