|Leaf Shape||Large, broad leaf featuring numerous short hairs on stem|
|Mature Height||60 to 175 feet|
|Best Habitat||Wet with direct sunlight
|Output||Woody ball-like fruit filled with seeds|
|Uses||Hardwood used to make flooring, furniture and musical instruments|
If you are looking for an inexpensive tree that will bring comfort and charm to your yard, then place the Sycamore at the top of your list. The majestic tree will not only make a statement to visitors, but its exquisite shape and longevity will likely make it a natural family heirloom that can be appreciated for decades to come.
Appearance of the Tree
The Sycamore is no shrinking violet. When cultivated in ideal conditions, the tree can grow up to 175 feet tall and 14 feet wide. What's more, the Sycamore's leaves mimic the tree's massive size. The large leaves, which typically measure between 4 and 6 inches long, feature numerous short hairs on the stem and veins which give it a fuzzy appearance. In full bloom the broad, green leaves form a canopy that can exceed 70 feet in diameter. In the fall, the leaves take on a pale yellow color.
Other distinguishing characteristics of the Sycamore tree include:
- Trunk: Given the gigantic size of the Sycamore, the tree's trunk often splits near the bottom giving it the appearance of having two trunks.
- Bark: The color of the Sycamore's bark pops against most backgrounds. It includes marbleized hues of gray, brown and cream. In addition, the bark's scaly appearance is hard to miss. In fact, the flakiness of the Sycamore's bark led to its nickname: Lacewood.
- Branches: The Sycamore's branches are especially eye-catching, as they twist and contort into whimsical shapes. The large branches are wonderful habitats for woodland creatures and children looking for natural hiding spots.
- Fruit: The fruit of the Sycamore is ball-shaped and ripens in October. The woody orb maintains its shape through the winter, when it breaks up into dozens of tiny seeds that feature little brown hairs which are scattered about by the wind.
Sycamore Tree Types
The name Sycamore is synonymous with three different types of trees which share many of the same characteristics. They include:
- Middle Eastern Sycamore: Also found in eastern Africa, this type of Sycamore has an ashy appearance and contains fewer leaves than heartier versions that are exposed to more water.
- British Sycamore: This species is native to central Europe. It is commonly found growing in the mountains of northern Spain, France and the Ukraine. Also known as the "European Maple," this type of Sycamore is known for the salmon-pink color of its young foliage and its ability to tolerate acidic soils.
- North American Sycamore: The hearty tree is found in various parts of Canada and throughout the United States. Its towering presence is hard to miss, though depending on which type of soil it is planted in, the North American Sycamore's bark and branches can appear whitewashed or feature a unique mixture of brown and grayish-green shades.
Where the Sycamore Grows
The deciduous hardwood Sycamore tree thrives in North America. It is grown throughout the United States, but is most abundant in areas with moist, cool soil, such as the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys which feature deep river bottoms. While it is common to see large Sycamores growing along rivers, streams and lakes, the hardy tree can also survive in:
- The Great Plain states, including
- Kansas and Nebraska
- The Western portion of the U.S.,
- including California and Oregon
- New Mexico
- Parts of the Middle East and Eastern Africa
Sycamores love direct sunlight and are remarkably tolerant to salt, pollution and inclement weather. For this reason the tree is often planted in large cities to provide shade. The downside is that the fast-growing Sycamore's roots can often damage sidewalks or other structures. It's best to plant the tree away from pavement.
The Sycamore tree is valued for its durable coarse-grained hard wood. Centuries ago Native Americans would often use the entire trunk of a Sycamore tree to create massive canoes. These days the tree is commonly used to create:
- Music boxes
- Backs, necks and scrolls of violins
In addition, since the 1970s, the Sycamore has been used as an energy crop for biofuel systems thanks in large part to its fast growth and large carbon mitigation potential.
The Sycamore is one of the oldest species of trees on the planet. Given its age, the Sycamore is often referenced in the pages of history:
- In the Bible, the Sycamore is considered a symbol of strength, divinity, and eternity.
- In American history, a 168-year-old Sycamore tree is credited with sheltering large groups of soldiers during the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania. Since then the tree has become a symbol of protection in the United States.
Interestingly, for as large and leafy as it is, the Sycamore does not have a strong scent. That makes it an ideal breeding ground for raccoons, squirrels and wood ducks, which make their homes in the tree's trunk and branches.
The most common disease that affects the Sycamore tree is anthracnose. The disease thrives in the same cool, wet conditions that Sycamore's desire. Anthracnose causes the tree's leaves to fall off prematurely and can eventually kill it.
There are two other known threats to the Sycamore tree:
- Bacterial scorch: This fast-moving disease has been known to kill Sycamore trees after only a year or two. Its most notable trait is causing the Sycamore's leaves to turn brown, wilt and fall off.
- Lace bugs: These nasty bugs work aggressively to defoliate the Sycamore. What's more, infestations can spread quickly from tree to tree.
Sycamores thrive in large, open spaces. If you are looking for an attractive shade tree, a Sycamore would be an excellent choice; however, it should not be planted in small yards or near power lines.
While the tree is supremely adaptable, to ensure that your Sycamore grows and prospers in your care, keep the following tips in mind:
- Use fertilizer with formulations that promote woody growth rather than foliar growth.
- To minimize the risk of anthracnose growth, prune your Sycamore regularly.
- Water the tree on a weekly basis.
- Monitor the number of animals that call your tree home.
Finally, since Sycamores require full sunlight to remain healthy, resist the temptation to plant the tree in the shade of a building or other large structure.