March 4, 2020
A 290-year-old sycamore tree at the Francis Land House is older than the historic structure by Mary Reid Barrow

In one photo of the big American sycamore in the front yard at historic Francis Land House, two teens are trying to wrap their arms around the giant tree but can’t come close.

Two more teens would be needed to complete the circle around this mammoth tree’s trunk

The grand old sycamore is about 290 years old, old enough to be a grandfather to the Francis Land House that dates to 1805.  What a stretch of Virginia Beach history this tree must have seen!

The sycamore was part of a recent Lynnhaven River NOW Notable Tree Tour.  Participants toured some of the largest and oldest trees in the northern half of the city.

The trees are part of Lynnhaven River NOW’s Notable Tree Program. The purpose of the program is to identify, catalog and recognize large old growth trees, like the sycamore, that still remain in Virginia Beach.

Citizens are welcome to nominate candidates for the program to Brent James, founder of LRNow’s Notable Tree program:

In winter, a sycamore tree could be mistaken for a sweetgum tree, because from afar their fruits look similar.  Many round woody fruits still hang from both trees and as winter goes on they look like tired old Christmas ornaments.

Up close you will see that a gumball is round and prickly.   Its seeds form down among the pointed tips.

A sycamore fruit is a round hard ball about the size of a gum ball but with no prickles. In late winter,  the balls begin to fall off the tree and turn soft.  When they open, sycamore seeds emerge, protected by lots of fluff,  reminiscent of dandelion seeds and their fluffy down:

Though their leaves are somewhat similar, sycamore trees grow bigger and have a more sprawling crown than gum trees, and sycamore trunks can be huge. In fact,  according to “Common Trees of Virginia, sycamores have the “largest trunk diameters of any North American hardwood.”

No wonder it would take so many teens to hug the massive tree at the Francis Land house.

You can see the sycamore tree by just driving in and around the Francis Land House Driveway, at 3151 Virginia Beach Boulevard. You won’t miss the tree as you go around the driveway curve.

  Find the photo of the teens hugging the sycamore tree on an interactive map of notable trees in Virginia Beach and learn more about the  program at:


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