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American Sycamore

TREES

GENUS/SPECIES


Platanus occidentalis

FAMILY


Platanaceae

SYNONYMS


Common: Sycamore, American/Eastern

DISTRIBUTION


Eastern US

  • Central Texas eastward to N Florida
  • N Florida up the Atlantic Coast to S New Hampshire
  • S New Hampshire westward to SW Wisconsin and E Nebraska

Comments

American sycamore is a common tree in floodplains along rivers but occasionally grows in drier areas in disturbed soil. It is easily recognized by its light-colored bark that comes off in large flakes as the tree matures. The leaves look much like oversized maple leaves but they have a distinct scent and a brownish “fuzz” that is easily rubbed off. Male and female flowers are produced in separate round clusters. The male flower heads produce substantial quantities of wind-borne pollen before falling from the tree, and the female flower heads enlarge to become seed balls over an inch in diameter that eventually disintegrate and scatter the seeds.