Plant of the Month January 2018: Sycamore

A Sycamore after leaf fall. Photo by Betsy Washington

Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is a familiar native tree, distinguished by its unusual, exfoliating red to gray bark exposing lighter colored white or cream inner layers. It is unique in the drama of its winter presence, especially when found in groves along waterways.  

   One of the tallest trees in our forests, sycamores can reach 150 feet in height. They have large five-lobed leaves and produce distinctive globular fruits. The branches frequently form hollows which provide habitat for squirrels and birds. Sycamores have heavy hard wood that is used for furniture, boxes, crates and butcher blocks. 

   The trees should be conserved and appreciated in natural areas. Although generally too large and too messy for most home landscapes, Sycamore is fast growing and can be useful for erosion control especially in well-watered areas.

See Go Native—Grow Native for more information on choosing native plants appropriate for landscaping.