Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Episode 624 (4-11-22): Sycamores are Sizable and Scenic at Streamsides

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:57).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 4-8-22.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of April 11, 2022.  This revised episode from August 2013 is part of a series this year of episodes related to trees and shrubs.

MUSIC – ~12 sec – instrumental.

This week, we feature a musical selection inspired in part by one of Virginia’s largest and most distinctive riverside plants.  Have a listen to the music for about 35 more seconds.

MUSIC – ~ 34 sec – instrumental.

You’ve been listening to part of “Sycamore Rapids,” by Timothy Seaman, of Williamsburg, Va., on a 2002 album also called “Sycamore Rapids.”  The album was inspired by the trees of Virginia’s state parks and forests, and the “Sycamore Rapids’ tune honors particularly James River and Shenandoah River state parks.  According to the composer, the tune’s progressions are meant to signify changes a paddler might experience from small riffles to larger rapids to smooth water.

At any of those water features throughout the eastern United States, part of a paddler’s scenery is often the American Sycamore tree.  Of the three sycamore species native to North America, the American Sycamore is the most familiar and by far the most widespread, ranging from New England to the Midwest and down to Texas, including all of Virginia.  Common in floodplain areas along rivers and streams, the sycamore’s distinctive features are large, often hollow trunks; peeling, patterned bark; crooked limbs; large root masses visible along stream banks; and spherical fruits persisting on leafless twigs long into winter.

Virginia riversides are of course commonly home to other tree species, too, such as Black Willow, Silver Maple, and Eastern Cottonwood.  But with its large size and distinctive bark, the American Sycamore is perhaps the Commonwealth’s most noticeable waterway marker.

Thanks to Timothy Seaman for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 15 more seconds of “Sycamore Rapids.”

MUSIC – ~ 16 sec – instrumental.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this episode.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 176, 8-26-13.

“Sycamore Rapids,” from the 2002 album of the same name, is copyright by Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.  More information about Timothy Seaman is available online at http://www.timothyseaman.com/.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at http://newstandardbluegrass.com.


Fruit on an American Sycamore beside Toms Creek in Blacksburg, Va. (Montgomery County), March 19, 2022.

American Sycamore beside Sinking Creek in Newport, Va., (Giles County), April 10, 2022.

American Sycamore roots along the James River near Wingina, Va., along the Nelson-Buckingham county line, July 12, 2009.

Hollow trunk of American Sycamore beside the New River in Radford, Va., October 4, 2009.

American Sycamores beside Toms Creek in Blacksburg, Va., November 5, 2016.


Used for Audio 

eFloras.org, “Flora of North America,” online at http://www.efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=1.  The American Sycamore entry is online at http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=200010589.

William C. Grimm, The Book of Trees, Hawthorn Books, New York, N.Y., 1962.

Oscar W. Gupton and Fred C. Swope, Trees and Shrubs of Virginia, University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, 1981.

University of Texas at Austin/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, ‘Plant Database: Platanus occidentalis,” online at https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ploc.

U.S. Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation Service, “PLANTS Database,” online at https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov/home.  The American Sycamore entry is online at https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=PLOC.

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “Virginia State Parks,” online at https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/.  The James River State Park entry is online at https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/james-river; the Shenandoah River State Park entry is online at https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/shenandoah-river.

Virginia Department of Forestry, Common Native Trees of Virginia, Charlottesville, 2016.

A.S. Weakley, J.C. Ludwig, and J.F. Townsend, Flora of Virginia, Bland Crowder, ed.  Copyright by the Foundation of the Flora of Virginia Project, Inc., Richmond.  Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth, 2012.  (The Flora of Virginia Project is online at https://floraofvirginia.org/.)

Herbert S. Zim and Alexander C. Martin, as revised by Jonathan P. Latimer et al., Trees—A Guide to Familiar American Trees, St. Martin’s Press, New York, N.Y., 2001.

For More Information about Trees and Shrubs in Virginia and Elsewhere

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Field Guide: Plants and Trees,” online at https://www.chesapeakebay.net/discover/field-guide/all/plants_trees/all.

Sanglin Lee and Alan Raflo, “Trees and Water,” Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Water Central Newsletter, pages 13-18, online at https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/49367.   (A Virginia Cooperative Extension version of this article—“Trees and Water,” by Sanglin Lee, Alan Raflo, and Jennifer Gagnon, 2018—with some slight differences in the text is available online at https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/pubs_ext_vt_edu/en/ANR/ANR-18/ANR-18NP.html.)

Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension, “How Trees Grow,” online at https://agrilife.org/treecarekit/introduction-to-tree-care/how-trees-grow/.

U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service, Forests of Virginia, 2018, Resource Update FS-264, Asheville, N.C., 2020; available online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/59963.

U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service, “State and Private Forestry Fact Sheet—Virginia 2022,” online (as a PDF) at https://apps.fs.usda.gov/nicportal/temppdf/sfs/naweb/VA_std.pdf.

Virginia Botanical Associates, “Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora,” online at http://www.vaplantatlas.org/index.php?do=start&search=Search.

Virginia Department of Forestry, “Virginia’s Forests,” online at https://dof.virginia.gov/.

Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program, Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment, online at https://forestupdate.frec.vt.edu/.

Virginia Forest Products Association, online at https://www.vfpa.net/.

Virginia Native Plant Society, online at http://vnps.org/.

Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Conservation, “Virginia Tech Dendrology” online at https://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/vtree.htm.  At this site, one can search for trees by common or scientific name.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the “Plants” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes on trees and shrubs.

Introduction to trees and water – Episode 621, 3-21-22.
American Witch Hazel – Episode 238, 10-31-14.
Ash trees – Episode 376, 7-10-17.
Early spring wildflowers in woodlands – Episode 573, 4-19-21.
Forest lands and work in Virginia – Episode 623, 4-4-22.
Maple trees – Episode 503, 12-16-19.
Photosynthesis – Episode 602, 11-8-21.
Poison Ivy and related plants, including the shrub Poison Sumac – Episode 535, 7-27-20.
Rhododendrons – Episode 574, 4-26-21.
Tree buds – Episode 622, 3-28-22.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs 

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs

Grades K-4: Living Systems and Processes 

1.4 – Plants have basic life needs (including water) and functional parts that allow them to survive; including that plants can be classified based on a variety of characteristics.
2.5 – Living things are part of a system.
3.5 – Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems support a diversity of organisms.
4.2 – Plants and animals have structures that distinguish them from one another and play vital roles in their ability to survive.
4.3 – Organisms, including humans, interact with one another and with the nonliving components in the ecosystem.

Grades K-5: Earth Resources
2.8 – Plants are important natural resources.
4.8 – Virginia has important natural resources.

Grade 6
6.6 – Water has unique physical properties and has a role in the natural and human-made environment.
6.8 – Land and water have roles in watershed systems. 

Life Science
LS.5 – Biotic and abiotic factors affect an ecosystem.
LS.6 – Populations in a biological community interact and are interdependent.
LS.7 – Adaptations support an organism’s survival in an ecosystem.

BIO.8 – Dynamic equilibria exist within populations, communities, and ecosystems.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15
– on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15
– on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16
– on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.
Episode 606, 12-6-21 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.