En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Information about native aconitum
February 27, 2008 - There was a picture of a plant in our local newspaper this past week. In the photo ID they called this plant an aconite, a member of the buttercup family. My questions are: is there such a plant? is i...
view the full question and answer

Mystery tree in Ontario
July 06, 2011 - I found a tree (similar to an apple tree in blossom) in a shaded area by a stream on our property. I have never seen anything like it. It is again, like an apple branch with the blossoms, however, t...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
August 19, 2008 - Hi, I live in South West Michigan and there is this plant I can't figure out. It has oval leaves in a row on each side of its stems, large thorns, and when the plant is grown it has what seems to be...
view the full question and answer

Identification of spiny plant in Yucca Mesa, CA
March 02, 2011 - I have a very prickly bush on my property near Yucca Mesa, CA, (high desert). 2 to 3 feet high. Branches mostly starting from the center near ground. Lots of 1 to 2 inch spines on branches. Dormant in...
view the full question and answer

Is there a variety of bluebonnet called black gumbo
February 04, 2008 - I live in Grimes County, Texas on the eastern edge of the Blackland Prairie. A few years ago my hillside of Bluebonnet seed was harvested. I was told it was a rare 'black gumbo' variety of bluebon...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center