Everything You Should Know About Sycamore Trees

Beautiful, majestic trees with beautiful flower plantings make up a great landscape for any kind of place, be it a huge bungalow or a house with a large garden. Numerous trees are grown for landscapes. However, if you are a tree lover, you would know that a sycamore tree is much more preferred than any other tree.

Sycamore trees are widely used for landscaping purposes in big houses. They are also used as a shade in open areas like gardens, bus-stops and along stream banks. You may also find a sycamore tree on the old neighbourhood streets. Now, you can tell that sycamore trees are quite common and are yet one of the most loving trees.

Someone who loves trees and decorating the garden would want to grow a sycamore tree in his garden. However, there are numerous types of sycamores and choosing the right one for your house and surrounding may get you confused. If you are also facing something similar, do not worry. Keep reading and you will know everything about sycamore trees. From their types to their identification, we have got you covered on everything about a sycamore tree.

What Is A Sycamore Tree?

These trees are deciduous and huge with a large crown of lush green foliage. These trees are also called Buttonball trees or Buttonwood trees. These names come from the fact that the balls of around an inch hang on the tree all winter and fall off during summer. These balls have their separate twig on which they hang.

There is nothing in a sycamore tree that will not amaze you if you are a newbie to them. From their leaves to barks, everything seems unique and beautiful. Their uniqueness makes it easy to identify them in forests or any other place.

So, if you are willing to know about the sycamore trees and wish to identify and explore them, keep reading. Here, we have a whole guide on how you can identify a sycamore tree, what are its features and how you can grow them. There are mainly six types of sycamore you would find out there. A sycamore tree, in general, can be identified with its common features. Let us see what these features are.

Identification of A Sycamore Tree By

The Leaves


You will find the sycamore trees with large, serrated leaves with three or five lobes. Their leaves show light green colour with detailed veins running to the pointed tips. These large leaves grow alternately with a size of around 10 to 17cm in diameter. The leaves of a sycamore tree also offer fall foliage in the shades of brown and yellow.

If you have witnessed a maple tree, you may confuse a sycamore leaf with that of maple. This is because some of the maple leaves look like sycamore leaves. One major difference that can be noticed between both the leaves is their growing arrangements. A leaf from a sycamore tree grows alternately while a maple tree’s leaf would grow in the opposite arrangement.

The Barks


The bark of a sycamore tree is usually thin and flaky. The barks make it easy to identify a sycamore tree from anywhere because of its appearance. The bark exfoliates in patches and shows patches in shades of grey, white and brown. These patches altogether give the bark a camouflage look from distance. So, if you ever find a tree in a camouflage appearance next time, know that it is a sycamore tree.

The Seed balls

Seed balls

As discussed earlier, sycamore trees are also very popular because of their seed balls. Sycamore trees produce spiky seed balls with a size of around an inch. These balls grow in the winter and eventually fall off in the spring. When these seed balls are immature, they would be found in green colour. But once matured, these balls turn brown. Tufts of fluffy small, winged seeds grow on these balls. Also, these seeds disperse in the spring when the balls fall off the tree.

Apart from the above-mentioned common features, the sycamore tree comes in six different types. Let us know about these types and their features.

Types of Sycamore Trees

1. American Sycamore

American Sycamore

The American sycamore is one of the largest deciduous trees that grow around 90 to 120 feet tall and around 10 feet or more in trunk diameter. This sycamore tree has vast broad leaves that make up a big irregular round-shaped crown at the top. The wide and thick trunk of many American sycamores divides at the ground. This gives the tree a multi-stemmed look.

The leaves of American sycamores look very similar to maple leaves and are 10 to 22 cm long in size. They come in an ovate shape with three to five lobes. However, you would find the indentations between its lobe’s shallows. The leaves on this tree grow light green in the spring and turn into dark green as the summer arrives. The leaves then turn dull yellow and brown in the fall.

The bark of American sycamore shows a reddish-brown colour. This colour peels off in a long spring and reveals the grey and pale white bark that is underneath. This irregular mottling happens in large masses and so gives the bark a camouflage look. One can easily identify this tree with this camouflage bark.

One can also find spiked seed balls hanging from slender stems of this sycamore. These balls drop off in the spring to give space to the clusters of flowers to thrive on the tree. You can find these trees easily along streams and rivers or in wetland areas in the eastern United States.

These trees were also grown as shade tree in the public areas of cities. However, the roots of this tree affected the sidewalks and building foundations, so they are not much preferred in public areas today.

Also known as Water beech and Western plane tree, the American sycamore grows best in USDA zones 4 to 9. You can grow these trees in any kind of soil, but moist and well-drained soil works the best. If given the right conditions, the American sycamore can grow up to 2 feet or so annually.

2. Mexican Sycamore

Mexican Sycamore

The Mexican Sycamore tree (Platanus Mexicana) is a deciduous tree native to northeastern and central Mexico. As compared to the American sycamore, this tree grows slightly smaller between 40 to 50 feet and with a trunk of around 2 meters in diameter. However, in wild areas, it may go up to 80 feet tall. You will usually find this sycamore near rivers and streams, but it is also drought tolerant once established.

This sycamore tree thrives in full sun and grows efficiently in zones 5 to 9. Also, it is adapted to almost all kinds of soils including alkaline. Though drought tolerant, it is recommended to water them nicely until they establish.

The tree bears large maple-like leaves of around 8 inches wide with five lobes in an olive-green shade. The undersides of a mature tree’s leaf (4 to 6 years old) develop short and dense white hairs, eventually giving the leaves velvet-like silver undersides. You will find yellow veins on the leaves and shallow notches between the lobes with smooth margins.

This sycamore tree has a smooth bark in white and light brown. Like all other sycamores, this Mexican tree also shows patchwork patterns once matured. As the roots of the Mexican sycamore are aggressive and the tree itself is relatively large, it is suggested that it not be grown near pavements or buildings. However, it can be grown as an ornamental tree in residential gardens or big residences as it is not as big as the american sycamore tree.

A good part about this sycamore tree is that it is resistant to bacterial leaf scorch which is a problem in American sycamores. However, a few fungal diseases like powdery mildew and anthracnose can affect the Mexican sycamore. Powdery mildew causes whitish dust to appear on the leaves. On the other hand, anthracnose occurs in cool and wet springs and causes moderate to severe leaf drop.

Moreover, this sycamore also bears flowers (both male and female) from December through February. They appear as balls in green colour hanging from the branches. Seed balls of around 1 to 2 inches in diameter can be seen on the tree from April through August.

3. California Sycamore

California Sycamore

Also known as the western sycamore or California plane tree, the California sycamores (Platanus Racemosa) are tall deciduous trees that grow around 100 feet tall and almost.

5 feet in diameter. These trees are quite drought-tolerant and thrive in full sun in zones 7 to 9. You can find them as ornamental trees in public areas or big residential areas.

This fast-growing tree grows around 30 to 35 inches annually and lives for up to 150 years in dense forests. In its initial stages, you will see it upright in a pyramidal shape. As it matures, it develops an irregularly spreading, oval or rounded shape with density. It grows the best in moist soils but adjusts with other soils too, including alkaline and acidic. However, growing the sycamore tree in dry soil would decrease its life span.

The bark of a California sycamore tree is thick, rough, and furrowed at the base, gets thin and smooth as it goes up and shows masses of thin branches. At the base, you would find the bark dark grey or brown and ashy white as it goes up. The skin of the bark peels off to show patchwork in the shades of white, tan, and brown.

You can identify these trees by the large 3 to 5 lobed leaves that grow up to 10 inches long and almost equally wide. The leaves go glossy green and have matte green on the undersides. They show great fall foliage in orange and yellow shades and fall off in winter.

This sycamore also produces tiny flowers in dense spherical clusters. Both male and female flowers occur on the same plant in different clusters between February and April. These clusters can bear as many as 100 tiny flowers each. Another identifying feature of this sycamore tree is its fuzzy seed balls that appear at the end of fall. These pom-pom seed balls are around an inch in a tan colour and dry. These seed balls stay on the tree through the winter and then disperse.

4. Arizona Sycamore

Arizona Sycamore

Native to Arizona and Mexico, the Arizona sycamore (Platanus Wrightii) is a majestic deciduous tree that grows up to 80 feet tall with an almost equal spread. These trees can be commonly found in the deserts of the United States. Otherwise, this sycamore in its natural habitat is found rarely in America. As compared to other sycamores, it is also not as drought-resistant and needs a water supply constantly.

Like every other sycamore tree, this one also grows well near rivers and streams and thrives well in zones 7 to 11. These trees can be grown in vast public or private places like gardens, parks, or farms, it is still not suitable for residential places due to its large

size and aggressive growth habits. This tree grows upright and stiff informally, without symmetry.

The leaves of this sycamore tree look like maple leaves with 3 to 5 deep lobes that grow 4 to 6 inches wide. The leaves look green all year and show beautiful fall foliage in the shades of golden and brown. As compared to California sycamores, it is said that Arizona sycamores are highly anthracnose resistant.

Like all other sycamores, fruits and seed balls are similarly born on this sycamore tree. Tiny flowers come in reddish clusters and fuzzy seed balls in a tan colour and of around an inch in size disperse in the winters. Moreover, the trunk is usually light grey and on maturity, peels off to show patches in white.

5. Old World Sycamore

Old World Sycamore

The old-world sycamores (Platanus Orientalis), also known as oriental planetree, are large deciduous trees (just like every other sycamore). While growing up to 100 feet tall, this sycamore tree is known for its long-life span and spreading dense crown of leaves and branches. This species of sycamore is native to Eastern Europe and the middle east.

When it comes to leaves, the old-world sycamore tree shows thick and large leaves that grow up to 10 inches wide. These maple-like leaves come in medium to dark green colour and show 5 to 7 lobes with serrated edges. Deep notches can also be found between the lobes. The green leaves turn into shades of red, amber, or yellow in fall.

The bark of this sycamore grows thick and rugged. The colour of the bark usually is in the shades of brown and grey which flakes off to show white patches. Flaking off the bark starts only after the tree has matured.

6. English Sycamore

English Sycamore

Also known as the London plane, the English sycamore trees (Platanus acerifolia) are large spreading trees that are mostly used as shade trees. These trees have a habit of growing in round shape and grow up to 80 to 100 feet tall, depending on the conditions given. The English sycamore is not an original sycamore, it is a hybrid between the American and the old-world sycamores originated from Spain.

The English sycamore tree is found hardy in zones 5 to 9 and thrives well with regular irrigation. And like all other sycamores, this tree also clusters of tiny flowers in yellowish-green and crimson red colour. The yellow flowers being male and the red flowers being female.

You will find the leaves on this sycamore around 7 to 10 inches big. These lobed leaves show three to five lobes and deep clefts between can be found. The margins of these leaves also show coarse edgy teeth. While being medium to the dark green whole year, the leaves show foliage of dull yellow and brown colours in the fall.

The bark of this sycamore tree is smooth with a greyish brown colour. At maturity, the brown colour peels off to reveal a creamy white colour on the bark. Unlike other sycamores, the trunk of English sycamore is straighter and shorter.

The tree also shows seed balls like other sycamores. However, seed balls on this sycamore grow in pairs and this feature can be majorly used to identify this sycamore tree.

7. Sycamore Maple Tree

Sycamore Maple Tree
Flying seeds clustered on a sycamore maple tree (Acer pseudoplatanus). These seeds are sometimes referred to as helicopters, because they spin in the wind as they fly to the ground.

Sycamore maple trees (Acer Pseudoplatanus) are wide majestic trees that grow up to 110 feet tall. One of the most important facts to know about the Sycamore maple tree is that it is a type of maple tree. Though it is named sycamore due to its features, it belongs to the family of Acer. Also known as plane tree maple, this sycamore is native to Europe.

These trees love full sun positions and thrive best in zones 4 to 7. Unlike other sycamores mentioned above, the sycamore maple does not produce any fuzzy seed balls. The reason being that it is maple. It also does not show any beautiful fall colours as other maple trees do.

This sycamore tree bears seeds in a fruit that has wings. Just like helicopter blades would rotate and fall to the ground, these seeds are also grown in the shape of a horseshoe and fall to the ground in the same way.

The sycamore maple tree grows broad five-lobed leaves of around 6 inches wide. The leaves are dark green and show shallow clefts between the lobes. The bark of this sycamore tree grows smooth and grey initially. As the tree matures, the bark becomes.

rough and starts to peel off. The bark reveals inner bark of orange and yellow shade on peeling off.


After going through all the information about a sycamore tree, you would probably now be able to identify each of these trees. Also, if you are interested in growing one of them, you can do it without doing any more research now.

Even if you do not wish to grow them, you should know about a sycamore tree. Someone who loves nature should know about a sycamore and its beauty. After all, our nature has so much to offer, it just needs some exploration and interest from our side!

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