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

 Native Plant Database

Platanus occidentalis

American sycamore, Eastern sycamore, American plane tree, Plane tree, Buttonwood, Buttonball tree

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.

Image Gallery:

23 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: 2015-11-09