Platanus occidentalis L.
American Sycamore, Eastern Sycamore, American Plane Tree, Plane Tree, Buttonwood, Buttonball Tree
Platanaceae (Plane-tree Family)
Synonym(s): Platanus occidentalis var. glabrata
USDA Symbol: PLOC
The American sycamore is a wide-canopied, deciduous tree, usually 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 champion's trunk is about 11 feet (3.4 m) in diameter; an earlier giant's was nearly 15 feet (4.6 m). The hollow trunks of old, giant trees were homes for chimney swifts in earlier times.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Achene
Size Notes: Up to about 150 feet tall, often much shorter.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Orange, Brown
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Red , Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr
DistributionUSA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MO , MS , NC , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
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 ConditionsWater 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.
BenefitUse 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
Deer Resistant: High
PropagationPropagation Material: Seeds
Description: Seeds which over-winter on tree and are planted in spring will germinate promptly. Stored seeds must be stratified. Seedlings are susceptible to damping-off. Sycamores are also grown from cuttings, usually to select for the whitest bark.
Seed Collection: Fruit is most easily collected after leaf drop. Dry heads, then place in bags and crush to separate achene. Store over winter in cool, well-ventilated area in mesh bags.
Seed Treatment: Stratified stored seeds for 30 days at 41 degrees before planting.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Trees that are non-toxic for horses
May 02, 2008
I live in Ponder, Tx. We have some acreage and horses and wish to plant trees to afford some shade for the horses. Can you tell me what trees are toxic to horses.
view the full question and answer
National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
Nueces River Authority - Uvalde, TX
Stengl Biological Research Station - Smithville, TX
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
Georgia Native Plant Society - Atlanta, GA
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
Jacob's Well Natural Area - Wimberley, TX
NPSOT - Williamson County Chapter - Georgetown, TX
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
Wildflower Center Seed BankLBJWC-716 Collected 2010-01-16 in Hays County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
BibliographyBibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 354 - Native & Naturalized Woody Plants of Austin & the Hill Country (1981) Lynch, D.
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 297 - Trees of Central Texas (1984) Vines, Robert A.
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Web ReferenceWebref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Platanus occidentalis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Platanus occidentalis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Platanus occidentalis
MetadataRecord Modified: 2022-09-23
Research By: NPC