P80114Only a few bits and pieces of natural native vegetation can be found on the floor of the Santa Clara Valley. They are primarily in spots that were not useful for some sort of development. Almost all of the big coast live oaks and valley oaks that lived in the flat areas are gone. Riparian vegetation still survives on the banks of creeks, and in adjacent areas where it has not yet been cleared.

Vasona Lake Park is a Santa Clara County Park situated around the small Vasona Reservoir just north of town. Although much of the natural vegetation was cleared a very long time ago, and exotic vegetation was either added or naturalized, several big native trees remain, including several California sycamore trees.

Because these grand sycamores were more common here than anywhere else in our childhood world, and we did not know what they were, my younger brother knew them simply as ‘Vasona’ trees. They were tall and gnarly, with big holes in their bulky leaning trunks. The lowest branches were far too high for us to reach, so we cold not climb them. The leaves were not clean and smooth like maple leaves, so we did not mess with them too much.

Unlike most deciduous trees that drop their leaves within a limited time in autumn, California sycamores drop their leaves whenever they want to. Most leaves fall in autumn. Some linger into winter. If the summer is exceptionally dry or warm, many leaves fall very early. Anthracnose can make the first spring leaves fall almost as quickly as they develop.

Somewhere along the line, my younger brother learned that catching a falling leaf before it reaches the ground is lucky. Consequently, we often ran after leaves that we saw falling from high up in the sycamore treees, if they were falling slowly enough for us to get to where they were going before they did.

I ignore them now. I notice the patterns of defoliation just because I am an arborist, but that is about the extent of it. However, I happened to see this leaf falling slowly from near the top of a massive California sycamore, and just had to catch it; my lucky Vasona tree leaf.


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