Platanus occidentalis: sycamore

Also known as the Plan Sycamore. Not “sycamore” of Europe.

Family: Platanaceae [plane], part of the largely tropical proteoid group; these trees are ‘living fossils’ that occurred in riparian habitats of the late Cretaceous era (together with Ginkgo, Metasequoia and Cercidiphyllum).

Form: large tree, often up to 100-130 feet tall with stems 5-6 feet across (up to 12+ feet)—one of the largest tree species; damaged trees resprout.

Range: eastern U.S.A. (+ Ontario; but not Minnesota to Maine); closely related to species in California & Mexico (also associated with boxelder).

Habitat: riparian woods, especially with somewhat base-rich soils, and often spreading onto adjacent uplands along roads and fencerows; intolerant of shade, but trees live to 200+ years (over-topping boxelder).

Consumers: leaves bitter and little browsed, but often damaged by fungi and insects; wood moderately hard but often rots to form hollow trees.

Growing notes: seed germinates in spring and fast growing; a popular tree for parks, but large leaves slow to decompose and can be nuisance.

Sycamore branches
Branches of a sycamore. Image:


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