American Sycamore

  American Sycamore
Platanus occidentalis


Shade Tolerance =Intermediate

Soil Moisture Niche = Moist Sites along streams

Vertical Preference = Canopy

American sycamore is one of the easiest trees to identify. Its stark white upper trunk contrasts strikingly with its associates. Lower on the trunk the tan bark peels off in flaky strips or plates. The broad shallowly lobed leaves might be confused with those of maple, but they are arranged alternately on the twig, whereas maple leaves are arranged in opposite pairs.

This tree loves water so never plant one near your septic tank! On good moist sites along streams sycamore can grow to be huge. Specimens have been found in the Mississippi valley with trunks 15 feet in diameter reaching 180 feet in height.

Most large sycamores are hollow making excellent dens for animals and good hiding places for our pioneer ancestors. According to his biographer, in 1770 Daniel Boone and his brother-in-law John Stuart were hunting in Kentucky when Stuart failed to return one evening. Five years later Boone found his remains and powder horn inside a large hollow sycamore tree where he had apparently hidden, presumably after being wounded by Indians. If this is a tall tale, it may still go to show that a good story can posses merit outside of the realm of fact!