Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Platanus occidentalis

American sycamore, Buttonwood, Plane-tree, Sycamore

Platanaceae (Planetree Family)

Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
Lytle, Melody
The American sycamore is a wide-canopied, deciduous tree, 75-100 ft. tall, with a massive trunk and open crown of huge, crooked branches. The bark of large, old trunks sloughs off in scales or plates leaving a smooth, whitish inner bark. Leaves broadly ovate or broader, blade often wider than long, long pointed. Globular fruits often persist through December. Large, medium- to dark-green, maple-shaped leaves turn brown in fall.

A shade tree, Sycamore grows to a larger trunk diameter than any other native hardwood. The present champions trunk is about 11 feet (3.4 m) in diameter; an earlier giants was nearly 15 feet (4.6 m). The hollow trunks of old, giant trees were homes for chimney swifts in earlier times.

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19 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Orange, Brown
Size Class: 36-72 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MS , MO , NE , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: ON
Native Distribution: S. ME to s. Ont., c. IA, e. NE & e. KS, s. to FL Panhandle & e. TX
Native Habitat: Low, moist woods; floodplains; rich bottomlands

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Moist, sandy loams or silty clays.


Use Ornamental: Shade tree
Use Food: The sap of Platanus species makes a pleasant drink. It can be boiled down into syrup, but the sugar content of the sap is low, and the sap/syrup ratio is higher than for other syrup-producing trees. (Athenic)
Use Other: The wood is used for furniture parts, millwork, flooring, and specialty products such as butcher blocks, as well as pulpwood, particleboard, and fiberboard.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds
Deer Resistant: High

Last Update: 2007-09-28