The fast growing Sycamore belongs to one of the oldest group of trees, Platanaceae, which have been around for more than 100 million years. (Ginkgo dates back 270 million years!) It can tolerate a wide range of climates and is found most often along streams and bottomlands.
Sycamore appears often in the Bible, and was cultivated by Ancient Egyptians, who believed it was the tree of life. In reality, sycamore isn’t native to the Nile Valley at all. The tree referred to in the Bible and by the Egyptians as sycamore is actually a wild fig tree. Our native sycamore is associated with Egyptian deities despite this misidentification.
Hathor, an Egyptian goddess with many names, was believed to live in a sycamore by the side of a stream. She was originally a personification of the Milky Way, the milk that flowed from the udders of a heavenly cow. She nursed the Pharaoh in the guise of a sycamore fig. As the “lady of the southern sycamore” she protected and assisted the dead on their final journey. She also used the milk from the tree to restore sight to Horus after he was blinded by Set.
In India, the Trees of the Sun and of the Moon were possibly plane trees, a relative of the American sycamore. These fabled trees were said to have given prophecy to Alexander the Great and Marco Polo. An Oriental plane tree was considered so beautiful by King Xerxes of Persia (519-465 BCE) that he had gold ornaments hung from it and posted guards to keep watch over it. The king is said to have worn a gold amulet with an image of the tree.
Sycamore is sometimes called the ghost of the woods because of its brilliant white branches and pale mottled bark. The branches grow in crooked directions creating oddly-shaped canopies, which adds to its spooky appearance.
The American sycamore has the largest leaves of any native tree. Also it has a very large circumference, which makes it a great shade tree. It is planted often in cities and can live for 500-600 years. At around 200 hundred it’s fairly common for the trunks to become hollow, which in the past centuries has made them convenient shelters for travelers caught in sudden bad weather.
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Believed to bring the wearer: abundance, comfort and shelter, immortality, love, perseverance, purification, rebirth, vitality
Other associations: communication, harmony, vision, regeneration
Spirit animals: goldfinch, squirrel, muskrat, beaver, duck, chickadee