En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
4 ratings

Monday - July 13, 2009

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Is this a sycamore tree in Houston TX?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I believe I have a 6 year old American Sycamore planted in front of my condo. There are no seed pods (balls) ever on this tree. I thought all Sycamores have those. Is my tree too young to produce the seed pods? My sister has one, only two years old..and she has the seed pods. I'm happy I DON'T have them (have heard they are very messy) yet..I just want to make certain this is an American Sycamore. Is it possible this tree will never have those seed pods?

ANSWER:

Here's what we were able to find out about Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore). It is monoecious, meaning it has both male and female flowers on the same tree, so another tree of the same species does not have to be present in order to produce seeds. The fruit is a ball composed of many closely packed, long, narrow  fruits that ripen by September or October and often remain on the tree over Winter, breaking up or falling off the tree the following Spring. A plantation or open-grown sycamore begins to bear seeds in 6 or 7 years. Natural stands of the tree begin to produce an appreciable number of seeds at about 25 years. The tree usually  bears a good seed crop every one or two years, with optimum production between 50 and 200 years of age.

Possible conclusions:

1. Either the tree in your condo yard is not a sycamore or your sister's is not.

2. Your tree is a natural growth tree and will not begin to bear fruit and seeds until it is about 25 years old, while your sister's may be a plantation-grown tree. It would still have to be a little older than she thinks it is to be bearing fruit, however.

We are going to provide you pictures of the distinctive leaves and bark for comparison with both trees. If you do not believe your tree (or your sister's) is a sycamore, go to the Mr. Smarty Plants page on Plant Identification, and follow the instructions for sending us pictures and description, and we will try to identify it for you. 

Pictures and more information from Virginia Tech VTree ID

Pictures and more information from North Carolina State University Fact Sheet

Pictures from Google Platanus occidentalis

 

From the Image Gallery


American sycamore
Platanus occidentalis

American sycamore
Platanus occidentalis

American sycamore
Platanus occidentalis

American sycamore
Platanus occidentalis

More Plant Identification Questions

How to tell Monarda citriodora from Monarda punctata.
September 18, 2015 - Hello! I'm wondering if you could clarify the differences between Monarda citriodora and Monarda punctata. Perhaps they do a lot of hybridizing, but I have plenty of conflicting info on...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of yellow daisy-like flowers blooming in Austin
October 25, 2010 - What is the name of the yellow daisy-like bush that is blooming now all over the Hill Country of Texas? The plant varies from 3 to 5 feet. The petals on the bloom vary from 8 to 10. The flowers are...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of thorny shrub in Tennessee
October 03, 2013 - I have a mid to dark green thorny type bush growing on my land in Cosby, Tennessee. I am originaly from NJ and I have never seen it before. The stalk is varigated and the thorns are plentiful and very...
view the full question and answer

Identification of low plant with like waterlily pad
May 04, 2008 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a low growing plant with leaves the shape of a waterlily pad, approx.1" growing all over my yard. I actually like them but would like to know the name of the plant. Thank y...
view the full question and answer

Plant identfication
September 28, 2009 - I live in Kyle Texas and my neighbor has a tree with white blooms and when they fall off the twigs have a wavy look at the end with no leaves. we spoke to a nursery and they thought maybe an eve's ne...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center