American Sycamore

Platanus occidentalis

Platanaceae - Plane-tree Family

The American Sycamore is the largest deciduous tree in North America. It can be found up and down the East Coast, from Massachusetts to Georgia and as far west as Texas. They prefer a climate between 30 and 70 oF, but can also adapt to extreme weather conditions. Moist, well-drained soil and continuous sun helps the Sycamore grow to maturity. These trees can grow to be over 100 feet tall, however, they are known for their large trunks, which can reach 10 feet in diameter.1

The Sycamore’s large fresh, new leaves of the spring turn gold in autumn and fall in winter. Sycamore can be recognized by its blotchy, multi-colored bark. Layers of bark peel away to reveal shades of white, grey, tan and brown. This gives the tree the appearance of camouflage.2

The Sycamore is also referred to as the “Buttonwood” because of its fruits, which take the shape of balls, approximately one inch in diameter. These hanging fruits contain seeds, which mature over the winter and release their seeds in the spring. The seeds fall the to the ground and are dispersed by water, wind, or other animals, leaving behind the “ball” which enclosed them.3

References and Useful Websites:
2 Sycamore. U. S. Forest Service, Northeast Area
3 East Tennessee State University Arboretum

This page was prepared by Caroline Woods, BIO 102, Fall 2011

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