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This long-lived, wide-canopied, fast-growing tree with very large leaves is wonderful for quickly establishing new shade. What makes sycamore a stand-out tree is the bark, which has a camouflage pattern composed of a gray-brown outer layer that peels off in patches to reveal the light gray or white wood beneath. The pattern is most pronounced higher in the tree as it ages. Its massive trunk and open crown of huge, crooked branches adds to its visual appeal. Flowers appear with the leaves April through May. Fall foliage ranges from orange to purple.


Primarily a species of bottomland and alluvial soils, it's found on a variety of wet sites and a wide range of soil types, including creek banks, shallow swamps, sloughs, and in the floodplains of large rivers. When siting, consider the peeling bark, round seed balls, and other debris that is known to fall from the sycamore.


Plant Characteristics:

Grows to 70-100+ feet tall and wide, at a rate of 2-6 feet yearly.


Grows in full to part sun.


Does best in deep, rich, moist soil that is well-drained. Tolerates soil compaction and moderate drought once established. 


Moderately deer resistant. Tolerant of urban pollution.


Wildlife Value:

Sycamore hosts 42 Lepidoptera species, including the spun glass slug moth, drab prominent moth, and the sycamore tussock moth, a specialist specifically and exclusively on sycamore. Many species of nesting birds are attracted to the high diversity of caterpillars that can be found on these trees, and pollinators are attracted to the nectar and pollen in the flowers. The seeds are eaten by a wide variety of wildlife: muskrats, beavers, squirrels, finches, chickadees and juncos. Fungus eats away at the heartwood of these trees as they age, creating valuable nesting cavities for barred and eastern screech owls, great-crested flycatchers, chimney swifts, wood ducks and other cavity nesting wildlife. Sapsuckers drill into the bark for the sweet sap, then return later to eat the bugs it attracts. Hummingbirds are also attracted to the seeping sap and the insects that feed on it.


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

The inner bark has astringent, diuretic, emetic and laxative properties, and has been used as a tea in the treatment of dysentery, coughs, colds, lung ailments, haemorrhages, measles, difficult urination, and as a blood tonic. Externally, it can be used as a wash on wounds. An infusion of the bark and roots has been used as a foot soak for treating rheumatism. The bark ooze has been used as a wash on infected lesions.


The sap can be boiled down into a low-sugar syrup with a pleasant flavor.


Spiky round seed pods can be used in craft-making, and the wood is often used to make furniture, millwork, flooring, and other wood products, such as butcher blocks.

Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis

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