Florida Forestry Information
Platanaceae
The Sycamore Family
 
The sycamore family consists of only one genus, Platanus, which includes about 7 species of trees.  3 of these trees grows in the United States, and one, the American sycamore, is found throughout the forests of the Southeast. 
 
 Click on the links below for an introduction to a tree of this family:
 
American sycamore
 
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Platanus occidentalis 
American sycamore, buttonwood, planetree 
 
American sycamore, photo by Chris DemersHabit 

The American sycamore is a large tree, 100-170 feet in height and 3-14 feet in diameter.  It usually branches about 20-80 feet above the ground into a massive, spreading, open, somewhat irregular crown. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  The leaves are 4-7 inches in diameter, and are broadly oval in shape, palmately 3-5 lobed, with shallow sinuses.  Leaves have a long, tapered apex.  The leaf base is flat or heart-shaped.  Leaf margins wavy, with short or long tapering teeth.  The leaf surfaces are light green and glabrous above, with pubescence along the veins below.  Leaf petioles are stout, 3-5 inches long, enclosing the lateral buds in their swollen bases. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual and very small, appearing in dense, stalked heads. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is a persistent head of achenes, 1 inch in diameter, on slender stalks 3-6 inches long.  Achenes are elongated, ovoid, with a blunt tip.  The seed is oval and yellow-brown. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender, zigzagging, orange-brown, becoming gray.  The pith is  homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is thin, creamy white at first, becoming brown, and later mottled by the formation of large, deciduous, plate-like scales.  The inner bark is whitish or greenish.  The bark near the base of old trunks is brown, furrowed, and scaly. 

Habitat 

The American sycamore grows on moist, rich soil margins of streams and lakes or on rich bottomlands.  It is found from southern Maine through New York to Ontario, Michigan, central Iowa, and eastern Nebraska; south to Texas, east to northern Florida. 

Use 

This tree is planted as an ornamental.  The wood is used for boxes, crates, baskets, yokes, furniture, butcher's blocks, automobile parts, and woodenware.  It is also suitable for planting along watercourses where the interlacing roots minimize stream bank erosion. 

 

Click on the links below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 
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