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
1 rating

Wednesday - August 24, 2011

From: Preston, UK
Region: Other
Topic: Non-Natives, Plant Identification, Planting, Trees
Title: Safe distance from foundation for Sycamore from Preston UK
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What would be the safe distance to have a sycamore tree near your house so it doesn't affect the foundations?

ANSWER:

We are deep in puzzlement. First, your e-mail address was Preston, with "UK" for a state, which gave our website hiccups. But when we looked at your address, we realized you were really from the UK. There are a lot of Prestons in the United States and a whole bunch of Prestons in the UK, but at least we know what continent we're talking about now. Next puzzle: The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, in Austin, Texas is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native to North America and in those areas where each plant grows natively. We can talk about sycamores native to North America but know zip about the ones in England.

We could just say "sorry, we don't do England," but our curiosity is piqued, so we thought we would see what we could find when we search on "sycamores in England" on the Internet. This brought us to the website tree2mydoor.com Sycamore, where we learned:

"There is an ongoing dispute as to whether Sycamore is a native British tree, but is now by far our commonest species of maple."

Our common sycamore, Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore), is of the genus Platanus, species occidentalis. It is a member of the Plantanaceae, or sycamore, family. To us, the Acer genus is from the Acereaceae, or maple, family, which is what the excerpt above calls your tree. According to the link above, the scientific name is Acer pseudoplatanus, which can be loosely translated as a maple that looks like a sycamore, but isn't ("pseudo").

All this still doesn't really answer your question, we have just come closer to understanding what your question is. Since we will not have this tree in our native plant database, here is a factsheet on it from the British point of view.

Now that we know we are talking about a maple, not a sycamore, here is a link to an article on the roots of maples. Our general advice on roots near a foundation is that the roots of a tree will extend out at least 2 to 3 times farther than the dripline or shade line of the tree. Our experience is that maple roots can be very invasive, often above the soil surface, and interfering with hardscape such as sidewalks, patios and, yes, house foundations.

 

From the Image Gallery


American sycamore
Platanus occidentalis

American sycamore
Platanus occidentalis

American sycamore
Platanus occidentalis

More Trees Questions

Leaves on new water oak turning brown from Matagorda TX
May 30, 2013 - We had water oaks planted in January when they had no leaves. Leaves came on but are now turning brown.
view the full question and answer

Native violets under maples from Gettysburg PA
July 06, 2012 - Just for your info (no need to post or reply), I saw an old post of a question of something to grow under maples. In central PA, native violets grow very well under several species of maples in lawns...
view the full question and answer

Planting Anacacho orchid tree in Llano, TX
October 05, 2011 - Re Bauhinia lunarioides: I'm trying to pick a good site in Llano Co for a 5 gal tree I received as a gift. Your plant database says part shade. The arid zone trees publication you reference in a...
view the full question and answer

Identity of wild plum in Childress County, Texas
March 16, 2015 - I have a Wild Plum follow up question. My wife grew up around the Childress TX area. She remembers going around the creeks and gathering Wild Plums for her mother as a child. Would you have any ide...
view the full question and answer

Is there a recommended list for Texas Eastern Cross Timbers?
August 29, 2011 - Is there a recommended list for Texas Eastern Cross Timbers?
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