Sycamore Tree lightWhen my parents retired and moved to the country, my Dad planted a sycamore tree in the side yard. Over years of visiting with them, I observed the tree grow and become a huge, sturdy tree. My mother told me sycamores were considered dirty trees becomes they frequently drop dead leaves and branches. I could see what she meant, even though I still thought the tree looked quite majestic.

Fifteen years ago I decided a sycamore tree would be a nice addition to my lower backyard. By putting it in the backyard it wouldn’t be a problem if it dropped copious leaves and branches. I soon found that many nurseries don’t stock sycamores, so I was surprised to find a 5-foot tree at an area nursery. I planted it in the backyard in a well-drained area and looked forward to watching it grow.

Several years later I was disappointed to see that the tree was not growing symmetrically; one side was pretty much bare of branches. I did some research and concluded that I couldn’t do anything about it so I cut it down to a stump. The next summer I noticed shoots of growth coming from the stump and just mowed around it. By fall there were several sizable shoots. Thinking I had nothing to lose, I selected the healthiest vertical one and cut down the others.

Next spring the shoot continued to grow and I kept all other growth around the stump cut back. Long story short, a few years later the tree was about 8-ft tall and was full on all sides. I was happy to see that there were no signs of the asymmetry of the original tree. I was a surprised at its rapid growth, but then considered that the root system from the original tree was still growing and would support such growth.

Then the next spring an unusual wind came into my area; it was the remnants of a storm from down south that had travelled north in the middle atmosphere. Unfortunately, it decided to descend in my part of Ohio and knocked down many trees, including several large cottonwoods that grew along the creek at the very back of my yard. As bad luck would have it, one of the big cottonwoods landed at the back end of my detached garage. In addition to causing several thousand dollars of damage to the garage, the cottonwood managed to split the little sycamore almost to the ground. Perhaps understandably, I was more upset about the damaged sycamore than the garage; after all, the garage was insured. However, nothing would get my sycamore back the way it was, at least not anytime soon.

This time I couldn’t help but wonder if the tree was simply not meant to be. Once again, though, I realized I had nothing to lose and cut it down to the stump. Again, shoots grew off and up from the stump that summer and I repeated the process in the fall of selecting the best shoot and cutting the rest.

Now, six years later, the tree is full and easily 15-ft tall. (The photo was taken this spring and shows the buds starting to leaf.) It is an awesome tree and will look even more so each year as it reaches to the sky. The trunk has assimilated much of the stump and in a few years the remaining stump will disappear. Then only a few people will know the extent of the tree’s troubled past.

I’ve met a few people who lives are similar to the story of this tree. Despite all odds, they keep on going. With just the right occasional and well-placed helping hand from the outside, they overcome it all and thrive.

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