South Compo Sycamore: Sick?

Michael Calise has forgotten more about Westport than most of us remember.

But he hasn’t forgotten about the sycamore tree on the Post Road/South Compo corner.

The sycamore at the Post Road/South Compo intersection.

Calise — a Westport native, and 1958 Staples High School graduate — has watched it for many years. It may not have been there when the British marched past on their way to Danbury in 1777, but it sure predates construction of the 1950s-era Compo Acres Shopping Center. It is estimated to be at least 150 years old.

Constant traffic — and drivers idling at that busy light — have taken a toll. Seven years ago, “06880” reported on alarming tree-killing mulch, and bark damage. Shopping center owner Equity One said that they knew the sycamore was a “defining aspect” of the property, and promised to take care of it.

The other day, Calise sent Peter Hannan some photos.

One view of the South Compo/Post Road sycamore …

The arborist responded:

“For years the tree has suffered from anthracnose, a fungus that distorts the new leaves and often causes premature leaf fall. This is a direct result of wet and cool spring weather that allows the disease to thrive.

“As summer progresses and when these weather conditions change the tree will hopefully put on full foliage as it has in the past.

“The other item that was quite clear from the photos is the dead tops in the crown directly above the recent construction. In narrowing the environment of the root zone, some damage was certainly done.

… and another. (Photos/Michael Calise)

“Trees for descriptive image are a mirror images below the ground as they appear above the ground. So the dead tops point to where the damage occurred, much like girdling roots. If this tree were on a private estate it certainly would have not encountered all the environmental issues, and would have been sprayed/fertilized or injected for the anthracnose.

“Just as an aside, a Connecticut group registers and documents notable trees. The criteria is oldest, tallest, widest, largest diameter. etc. Several are in Westport. If nothing else, with all the challenges this tree has experienced over the years — and there have been many — its resiliency is certainly champion.”

10 responses to “South Compo Sycamore: Sick?

  1. David Wunsch

    Good for you Mike!

  2. Morley Boyd

    The recent sidewalk replacement work done at the base of this tree was
    barbaric. I’m shocked the tree isn’t dead. It likely will be soon. And it will have been killed by ignorance. Or indifference.


  3. Sylvia Robinson Corrigan

    I know this tree and remember it from back in the 1960s. I think a Staples student did a drawing of it in Soundings, the literary magazine, and the branches displayed that same kind of gnarly sparsely leafed look. I believe it has looked this way for a long time.

  4. Brad French

    Sycamores are strong resilient street trees. They lined my grandparents street in Philly and I was surprised to see them lining a boulevard in Istanbul. This tree is dying back severely. Pete Hannan is a very knowledgeable tree expert. There are some great sycamores in Winslow park by North Compo Rd.

  5. Heather Walklet

    Thank you Mike. That’s a beautiful and historic tree thats in distress! I didnt know about the recent sidewalk replacement work that seems to have caused the problem. Lets get on it and save this tree.

  6. Susan Huppi

    Glad to see that people are watching over this and hopefully something can be done. I remember this tree well…I had forgotten it’s a sycamore. One of my favorite trees in my neighborhood is a beautiful sycamore. Really hooe thus can be saved.

  7. I’ll bet any of the above commenters that the owners of the mall will do nothing, absolutely nothing, to save or improve the life of this tree despite this article….they simply don’t give a shit.

  8. Marty Hauhuth

    Thanks Mike for watching over this tree which I consider an old friend.