Platanus occidentalis
Family Platanaceae

* Leaves nearly hairless, with 3-5 large lobes, 6-10".
* Bark distinctive; mottled brown, flaking off in puzzle piece-shaped pieces to reveal yellowish and whitish underbark.
* Fruits small, hairy, clustered tightly in long-stalked, brown, hanging balls, 3/4-1 1/2" in diameter.
* Flowers small, globular.
* Height: 50-130'.

Natural History:
* Flowers April - June.
* Fruits October - winter.
* Habitat: Streambanks, lowlands.
* Range: Southeastern Canada, eastern half of the United States.
* Native.

* Sycamores are considered the most massive of eastern American trees. Native Americans used them to make, among other things, dugout canoes. One of these canoes supposedly measured 65 feet and weighed 9000 pounds!

* Most sycamores over 100 years old are hollow inside. Wood ducks, opossums, and raccoons often nest in the hollow, live tree trunks. As Donald Peattie writes in his 1950 A Natural History of Trees (319) that "...pioneers often stabled a horse, cow, or pig in a hollow Sycamore, and sometimes a whole family took shelter in such an hospitable giant, until the log cabin could be raised."

* Eminent naturalist, ornithologist, and painter John James Audubon recounts an encounter with a flock of swallows nesting in a hollow sycamore in Kentucky:
"The sun was going down behind the Silver Hills, the evening was beautiful; thousands of Swallows were flying closely above me, and three or four at a time were pitching into the hole, like bees hurrying into their hive. I remained, my head leaning on the tree, listening to the roaring noise made within by the birds as they settled and arranged themselves, until it was quite dark..."

* The drawing at the right comes from Donald Peattie's A Natural History of Trees, page 317.


Created by: Allaire Diamond and Jiasuey Hsu
Maintained by: Nick Rodenhouse
Created: July 31, 1998
Last Modified: November 21, 2008