Sycamore, American or Amer. Planetree

Platanus occidentalis

Platanaceae - Sycamore Family

Description

Leaves: Alternate; simple; 3" to 8" wide; deciduous; more or less deeply 3 to 5 lobed; margin of lobes coarsely serrate; bright green and glabrous above; paler and hairy along veins beneath; petioles 2" to 3" long, hollow at the base.

Twigs/buds: Twigs moderately slender; orange-brown; zigzag.  No terminal bud; lateral buds conical, resinous, covered by a single cap-like scale and hidden under hollow petiole base.

Flowers/fruit: Monoecious.  Flowers small in small round heads, appearing in spring.  Fruit a round, yellow-brown head or ball about 1" in diameter that hangs from slender, 3" to 6" long stem; heads usually occur singly; often persists through the winter.

Bark: Brown on younger branches; soon becomes mottled (brown and white) as brown outer bark peels off, showing the creamy-white, smooth inner bark; bark on lower trunk of older trees brown and scaly; very distinctive.

Wood: Somewhat important; sapwood light yellow; heartwood light to dark brown; growth rings distinct; diffuse-porous; rays conspicuous to naked eye; used for boxes, furniture, railroad ties.

General: Native to most of the eastern U.S. and as far west as the eastern Great Plains.  Usually found naturally along streams.  Can get very large.  Very shade intolerant.  Fruit and/or plant part can be nuisances; use fruitless varieties if possible.

Landscape Use: This is a large tree that is planted in Utah but is easily confused with the London planetree, which is more common.  Has a strong, pyramidal canopy when young with beautiful bark.  Zones 4-9.

Cultivar: 'Howard'.

Characteristics

General

Platanaceae - Sycamore
Family:
Yes
Cultivar Availability:
4 - 9
Hardiness Zone:
Broadleaf
Type:
No
Utah Native:

Growth

High
Growth Rate:
High
Mature Height:
High
Longevity:
No
Power Lines:
Oval
Crown Shape:

Ornamental

Yes
Bark:
No
Fall Color:
No
Flowers:
Yes
Foliage:
Yes
Fruit:

Tolerance of...

Medium
Shade:
Medium
Salt:
High
Drought:
High
Poor Drainage:
High
Alkalinity:
High
Transplanting:
x

Family

A group of closely related species and genera; scientific name ends in 'aceae'.

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Cultivar Availability

Cultivar Availability means that selected, genetically pure trees are available with known characteristics. Cultivars often prove to be more desirable than trees grown from seed or collected in the wild.

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USDA Hardiness Zone

Pick a hardiness zone to show which trees are suitable.

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Tree Type

Select Conifer for pines, firs, junipers, ginkgo, and other conifers (gymnosperms). Select Broadleaf for trees with broad, flat leaves (more or less) (angiosperms).

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Utah Native

Utah Native

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Growth Rate

Growth rate refers to height growth for the first ten years after a tree is planted. Select Low for less than 12-inches/year height growth. Select Low-Medium for low or medium growth rate. Select Medium for 12- to 24-inches/year height growth. Select Medium-High for medium or high growth rate. Select High for more than 24-inches/year height growth.

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Mature Height

Mature height will vary considerably by cultivar and site and is shown here assuming adequate care. Select Low for less than 20 feet mature height. Select Low-Medium for low or medium mature height. Select Medium for 20 to 40 feet mature height. Select Medium-High for medium or high mature height. Select High for more than 40 feet mature height.

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Longevity

The typical life span of a good tree in a suburban neighborhood is 30 to 50 years, while downtown trees may only last 5 to 10 years. People tend to plant fast-growing trees that often have fairly short lives. While some of this is all right, homeowners and communities should also plant trees that might grow slower (though some grow quite fast) but that are longer-lived. Select Low for less than 25 years typical life span. Select Medium for 25 to 50 years typical life span. Select High for more than 50 years typical life span.

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Powerline Suitability

Only very short trees should be planted under or directly adjacent to overhead electric lines. Medium height trees should be offset 15 to 20 feet horizontally from electric lines. Large trees should be offset 30 feet. Wider crowned trees like elms or maples should be offset more than narrower crowned trees like spruces or firs. If you suspect that you are planting in an area with underground electric lines or other buried utilities, call Blue Stakes at 1-800-662-4111 to have utilities located and marked. 'Yes' in this database means a tree is suitable for planting directly under powerlines. 'No' means it is not.

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Crown Shapes

Crown shape varies considerably by cultivar and sometimes by site. The common crown shape for a species is shown as follows: Pyramidal, Round, Columnar, Weeping, Broad, Oval, Vase, Layered, Shrubby, and Irregular.

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Ornamental Features

Ornamental characteristics are important factors in tree selection even though they usually have little to do with whether a tree can survive and thrive on its site. Ornamental factors to consider include flower and fruit presence and appearance, foliage color and texture, bark characteristics, shade density, fall color, and winter appearance. Some trees have thorns or spines, objectionable odors, a tendency to have basal or root sprouts, or maintenance-related needs that also should be considered. 'Yes' in this database means that a species is noted for a particular ornamental feature; 'No' means it is not, though there may be exceptions depending on cultivar.

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Tolerance of Shade

Shade tolerant plants often are best planted in at least partial shade, though many will do well in full sun. Shade intolerant plants usually need full sun to thrive.

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Tolerance of Salt

Generally means tolerance to salt on above ground plant surfaces, though may indicate some tolerance to soil salinity.

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Tolerance of Drought

Indicates the tree's tolerance of low soil moisture, heat and/or low humidity.

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Tolerance of Poor Drainage

Indicates the tree's tolerance to waterlogging, compaction, or otherwise poorly oxygenated soil.

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Tolerance of Alkalinity

Indicates the tree's tolerance of high soil pH or soil alkalinity; soil pH above 6.5 or 7.

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Ease of Transplanting

This describes a tree's relative likelihood of transplanting success. A low ranking indicates a plant that may need extra care at planting and may do better if transplanted while fairly small. Select Low for low transplanting difficulty. Select Medium for medium transplanting difficulty. Select High for high transplanting difficulty.

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