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

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Monday - April 19, 2010

From: Belle Mead, NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Trees
Title: Planting spot for sycamore in Belle Mead NJ
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

At school we all got a tree. It was a Buttonwood tree, which I know is REALLY big, but my grandma wants to plant it near other trees. Where should I put it? My dad won't let me plant it in the middle of the yard. Also, will lightning be more attracted to IT or a lightning rod?

ANSWER:

We hate to side with your grandmother and father, but we agree that the Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore) would be better planted near other trees. I'm sure it is a very small tree right now, and since it can grow in sun, part shade or shade, it could use the shelter of the other trees until it gets a little more size on it and can take care of itself. Also, planting it in the middle of your yard means that when it grows up (and it's a pretty fast-growing tree) it will shade out the grass in your lawn, and drop a whole lot of leaves and seeds on the ground. My grandmother, in Wichita Falls, Texas had sycamores in her yard, and I always loved the peeling bark and what I  called the "fluffballs" but were really seed balls. That is probably why this tree also has the common name "buttonwood." It is a native to New Jersey, and you can follow the plant link above to our page on it and find out more about how it grows.

Now, about the lightning. You realize that is a little out of our field, which is plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plants are being grown. But it is an interesting question, so we did a little research to find something that might help you figure out the answer. 

Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, Trees and Lightning

How Stuff Works How Lightning Works

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Platanus occidentalis

Platanus occidentalis

Platanus occidentalis

Platanus occidentalis

 

 

 

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