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Sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis)

Sycamore Tree Sycamore is a massive tree, growing 80 to100 ft high with wide-spreading branch and root systems. It is found throughout the Eastern U.S., often in bottomland forests, but occupies a variety of upland habitats as well. Sycamores are found in many places throughout the Arboretum, but are especially abundant along Scarborough Creek Road and the Marsh Area.

Sycamore Tree in Fall Season As winter approaches and leaf fall occurs, Sycamores stand out in the forest with starkly white upper trunks. The trees are often referred to as skeleton or ghost trees. The outer bark on lower portions of mature trees breaks into pieces leaving a patchy mosaic of brown, green, and gray overlying the inner white bark.

Sycamore Tree in Fall Season Other key characteristics include large (4-8 in. wide), coarsely toothed leaves that are 3-5 pointed and a ball-shaped fruit on the end of a long stalk that matures in the fall and often persists into the winter.

Sycamore Fruit Sycamore is a fast-growing tree that makes it an attractive candidate for biomass production and as a shade tree. The hard, strong wood has a twisted grain and is difficult to split. It is used for such purposes as pulpwood, particle board, and furniture. Native Americans used Sycamore for a variety of medicinal purposes and the hollowed out trunks for dugout canoes. The leaves, pollen, and fruits of Sycamore are allergenic. The London Planetree, a common street tree in many countries, is a cross between our native Sycamore (P. occidentalis) and the Oriental Planetree (P. orientalis).

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University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
901 South Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830 · Telephone: 865-483-3571 · Email: UTforest@utk.edu