American sycamore
Platanus occidentalis L.
  • LEAVES: deciduous, alternate, simple, with 3-7 shallow pointed lobes; blades about as wide as long or wider, 4-7” broad; dilated petiole base encloses the lateral bud; leaf-like stipules encirlce the twig, stipule may be deciduous or persistent even on leafless twigs
  • FLOWER: unisexual, plants monoecious; flowers minute in globose heads
  • FRUIT: a tiny achene subtended by long bristles; fruiting heads referred to as “sycamore balls”
  • TWIGS: slender, orange and maturing gray; sometimes with zigzagging pattern; leaf scars thinly surrounding lateral buds (terminal buds lacking), stipule scars encircling twigs at nodes
  • BARK: cream to green colored, mottled, with exfoliating brown flaky outer surface; because of the smooth light-colored bark, trees are often identifiable from a distance
  • FORM: large tree, 100-175’ tall and 3-11’ dbh; very fast growing
  • HABITAT: stream and river banks and in associated bottomlands
  • WETLAND DESIGNATION: Facultative Wetland (FACW): Usually occurs in wetlands, but occasionally found in non-wetlands (67–99%) in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Plain Region
  • RANGE: eastern US and Mexico [USGS Range Map]
  • USES: wood used for pulp (grown in short-rotation stands), lumber, veneer, furniture, butcher blocks; popular ornamental
  • WILDLIFE: marginal for wildlife food; good cavity tree for nesting and denning
  • Best Recognition Features:
    1. mottled light-colored bark
    2. relatively large simple leaves
    3. persistent sycamore balls