Platanus occidentalis L.
Platanus occidentalis L. var. glabrata (Fernald) Sarg.
American Sycamore, Sycamore
American sycamore is native to the eastern North America.
Identification: Trees reach 98-131' (30-40 m) and up to 6½' (2 m) in diameter. Bark is mottled, with large irregular chunks like puzzle pieces that flake off, revealing differently colored bark beneath. Bark colors include tan, light gray, white, cream, and olive green. The unusual appearance of the bark is a prominent identifying feature. Leaves are 4-9" (10-22 cm) in size, somewhat resembling maple leaves, with 3-5 lobes. Male (staminate) flowers are dark red, while female (pistillate) flowers are light green tinged with red. Both are ball-shaped, becoming brown balls of fruit about 1" (2.5 cm) around, hanging on stems up to 3" (7.6 cm) long, usually remaining through the winter. The balls are bumpy; each bump is a seed and parachute.
These “sycamores” are not related.
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|Plant||66-115' (20-35 m) high, with a broad crown, oval to rounded in shape.||98-131' (30-40 m) high, up to 6½' (2 m) in diameter.|
|Flowers||Yellowish green, in May.||Male flowers are dark red, while female flowers are light green tinged with red. Both are ball-shaped.|
|Leaves||Five-lobed, with serrated edges, 4-10" (10-25 cm) in size.||4-9" (10-22 cm) in size, somewhat resembling maple leaves, with 3-5 lobes.|
|Stem||Depending on age, may be smooth and gray or covered with large peeling scales that reveal several colors of inner bark.||Bark is mottled, with large irregular chunks like puzzle pieces that flake off, revealing differently colored bark beneath. Bark colors include tan, light gray, white, cream, and olive green.|
|Seeds||Samaras are 1¼-2" (3.2-5 cm).|
|Fruit||Bumpy brown balls about 1" (2.5 cm) around, on stems up to 3" (7.6 cm) long. Bumps separate into airborne seeds after drying.|
Platanus occidentalis at the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
Platanus occidentalis on Wikipedia
Platanus occidentalis on the USDA Plants Database
Platanus occidentalis at the University of Connecticut Plant Database
Platanus occidentalis at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Platanus occidentalis at the USDA Forest Service's Silvics of North America site
Platanus occidentalis at the Ohio State University PLANTFacts database
Platanus occidentalis on eFloras
Sibley, David Allen, The Sibley Guide to Trees, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, p. 102
Platanus occidentalis description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 2 Jan 2019.