is one of the tallest deciduous trees in North America. It can grow to
a height of up to 170 feet, with a trunk diameter of up to 8 to 12 feet.
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is comparably tall, but generally
does not have as massive a trunk. The crown is broad with large, irregular,
spreading branches. Sycamore grows on floodplains along streams and around
lakes and ponds. It occurs sometimes in upland mesic forests, moist ravines,
and occasionally on limestone soils.
name (Platanus) is derived from the Greek Platanos, which
in turn is probably from the Latin platys for the wide leaves. Another
name for sycamore is buttonwood. This common name arose from the fact that
sycamore wood, which is difficult to work with is also difficult to split
and is therefore used for butcher blocks and buttons.
trees are easily recognized by their conspicuous bark. The bark is smooth
and reddish brown to gray when the tree is young. As the tree ages, the
bark flakes off in irregularly shaped plates exposing the white to yellowish
gray under bark.
are smooth and light brown.
are light brown, small (1/4 inch long), and covered by the leaf stalk.
are alternate, simple, and large; typically 6 to 10 inches long and often
as broad. The overall shape is triangular, with three to five very large,
sharp-pointed teeth. The leaves are green and shiny on the upper surface
and are whitish and somewhat hairy beneath.
Both male and female flowers occur on the same tree (monoecious) and appear in the spring (April - June) at leaf out.
The fruit, which appears in October and persists through the winter, is actually a brown, spherical cluster (3/4 - 1 1/2 inches diameter) of dry, one-seeded fruits that hangs from a long stalk.
wood is strong and hard, and is used for furniture, butcher blocks, and
interior finishing. The tree is planted as an ornamental for its imposing
stature and unusual bark. It is also a fast growing tree, often planted
Americans used sycamore for a wide variety of medicinal purposes, from
treatment of coughs and respiratory distress to dietary and gastrointestinal