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Platanus occidentalis

Common Name(s):
American sycamore, Eastern sycamore, sycamore
Cultivar(s):
Howard
Categories:
Native Plants, Trees
Comment:

The Platanus occidentalis, or American sycamore is usually a single-trunk tree that typically grows to 75-100’ (less frequently to 150’) tall with horizontal branching and a rounded habit.  It is generally regarded as the most massive indigenous tree to North America.  The trunk diameter typically ranges from 3-8’, with some records up to 16’.  The Sycamore is native to lowland areas, typically reaching its largest size along streams, rivers, and floodplains. The signature ornamental feature of this huge tree is its brown bark which exfoliates in irregular pieces (potato chip-like) to reveal creamy white inner bark. Mature trees typically display mottled white bark that facilitates identification from great distances.   It is not known for its fall color which is a yellowish-brown, but the interesting bark provides winter interest. 

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

     Bloom:   Spring     Fruit/Seed/Nut: Fall

Wildlife Value:  The American sycamore is moderately resistant to damage from deer.  Birds, like the American goldfinch and Carolina chickadees, eat the seeds in the winter.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  Sycamore anthracnose is a significant disease that can severely damage the foliage and twigs, often precipitating premature leaf drop. Canker, leaf spot and powdery mildew may also occur. Insect visitors include borers, scale, Japanese beetles, caterpillars, and mites. When grown as a lawn tree, litter from twigs, large leaves, bark and fruiting balls can pose significant clean-up problems.

 

Height:
75-100 ft.
Flower:
In April, insignificant, small monoecious flowers yellow (male), red (female), appear in clusters, typically one cluster to a stalk. The fruit is a showy fuzzy, long-stalked, spherical ball (to 1 3/8” diameter). They ripen to brown in the fall and persist into early winter. Each ball contains many seed-like fruits called achenes. As fall progresses the balls break down and the seeds fly out in downy tufts on the wind.
Zones:
4 to 9
Habit:
Single trunk, horizontal barnching
Site:
The American Sycamore is grown in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun, however, will tolerate light shade. It prefers rich, humusy, consistently moist soils. Generally tolerant of most urban pollutants. Be sure to have enough room in full sun for this massive tree.
Texture:
Coarse
Form:
Large massive trunk; wide spreading rounded open crown; crooked branches
Exposure:
Full sun, part shade
Fruit:
Seeds
Width:
75-100 ft.
Growth Rate:
Moderate to rapid
Leaf:
The leaves of the American Sycamore are very large, 3-5 lobed alternate, simple, medium to dark green leaves (4-10” wide) with 3 to 5 lobes has coarse marginal teeth. The petiole flares out and covers over a leaf bud at the base. The leaves turn a tan to brown color in the fall.
Tags:
spiky fruit, mottled bark, white bark, deciduous, interesting bark, large shade tree, birds, full sun, deer resistant, rain garden, large leaves

NCCES plant id: 3037

Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore
T. Davis Sydnor, CC BY - 4.0
Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore bark in winter Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore bark in winter
T. Davis Sydnor, CC BY - 4.0
Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore bark Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore bark
Elizabeth Moss, CC BY - 4.0
Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore leaves and fruit Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore leaves and fruit
Allen Bridgman, CC BY - 4.0
Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore buds Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore buds
Robert Videki, CC BY - 4.0
Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore petiole Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore petiole
Rebekah D. Wallace, CC BY - 4.0
Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore fall color Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore fall color
T. Davis Sydnor, CC BY - 4.0