Advanced Search Filters

Plant Type
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
Sunset Zone
Function
Sun Exposure
Soil Moisture
Water Requirement

PLATANUS occidentalis

Image of Platanus occidentalis

James H. Schutte

Family

Platanaceae

Botanical Name

PLATANUS occidentalis

Plant Common Name

American Planetree, American Sycamore

General Description

The American sycamore is a grand, picturesque tree if well placed in the landscape. This large deciduous tree is naturally distributed across the eastern half of North America, from Maine to Florida, so it is beneficial to grow from local stock. It is a lowland tree that’s adapted to soils that become flooded intermittently throughout the season. Happy trees can survive for hundreds of years.

Sycamores are best known for their beautiful bark and elegantly irregular branching patterns. The multicolored flaking bark is in overlapping shades of brown, gray, creamy beige, and white. The younger branches tend to have more white and the twigs are orange-brown with a zigzagged appearance. The broad, open limbs of mature specimens can almost look contorted and the trunks become thick and protruding in very old specimens.

Sycamore leaves are almost maple-like but appear broader, larger and have sharper, more acute tips. They are bright green when they emerge in spring, deepen to dark green by summer and turn golden tan in fall. Each has three to five-lobes. The flower clusters appear in spring when the leaves emerge. The inconspicuous blooms are male or female, reddish and appear in clusters across the branches. The golf ball-sized fruits that follow turn from green to light brown and decorate the branches into winter until they finally fall and shatter into fluffy filaments.

Plant American sycamore in full sun and sites with moist, fertile soil. It does demonstrate considerable tolerance for drier and the more shallow soils associated with residential suburbs, as well as seaside gardens. This tree develops substantial surface roots so it should not be planted too closely to buildings or sidewalks, which will buckle under pressure. Another caveat to planting sycamore is its susceptibility to anthracnose. Infected trees show their symptoms in varying degrees. Usually, they leave out late, their leaves are blotched and badly infected trees tend to drop their leaves early—sometimes in early summer.

This is a specatular shade tree for large, open lawns and spacious avenues. Be sure to plant it away from highly trafficked public areas. Their fruits can be annoying in more pristine neighborhoods and drop on parked cars.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 3

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    5 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    70'-100' / 21.3m - 30.5m

  • Width

    65'-100' / 19.8m - 30.5m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring

  • Native To

    North America, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site, Pollution, Salt, Soil Compaction

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Spreading

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Orange Red, Dark Salmon

  • Fruit Color

    Tan, Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Gold, Tan

  • Bark Color

    Tan, Brown, Sandy Brown, Ivory, Gray

  • Bark Color Modifier

    Multi-Color

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Platy

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Shade Trees, Street Trees

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes