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An individual instance of Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
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General: Planetree family (Platanaceae).  Monoecious, native, deciduous trees with an open crown, among the largest of Eastern deciduous forests, reaching heights of 18-37 meters, and the greatest diameter of any temperate hardwood tree -- the largest known range 3-4 meters d.b.h.; twigs zig-zag, with only lateral buds; bark of upper trunk exfoliating in patches, leaving areas of inner bark exposed, a patchwork of browns, yellows, and greens against a background of white, the darker bark with age falling away in thin brittle sheets, exposing younger and lighter-colored bark.  Leaves are deciduous, alternate, 10-35 cm long, palmate-veined and roughly star-shaped, with 3-5 sharp lobes. Fruit consists of numerous achenes in a pendulous, ball-shaped fruiting head 2-5 cm in diameter, the individual achenes drifting in the wind if the head breaks up on the tree.


Industry: American sycamore is grown in short-rotation plantations primarily for pulp and it also is used for rough lumber.  The heavy, close-grained wood is difficult to split and work because of interlocking fibers.  It has been used for butcher's blocks, furniture, veneer and interior trim, boxes and crates, flooring, and particle and fiberboard.

Conservation: American sycamore is a good planting where a large, fast-growing tree is desired. The huge size quickly attained by these trees is often underestimated.   

Ethnobotanic: Native Americans used sycamore for a variety of medicinal purposes, including cold and cough remedies, as well as dietary, dermatological, gynecological, respiratory, and gastrointestinal aids. 


American sycamore is widespread in the eastern United States, from Texas to Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin and into southern Ontario, Canada; it also occurs in the mountains of northeastern Mexico.


It often is a pioneer on upland sites in the central part of its range, but it is primarily a species of bottomland and alluvial soils, also occurring on creek banks, mesic coves and lower slopes, on a wide range of soil types.  It is a major pioneer species in the floodplains of large rivers and occurs on a variety of wet sites, including shallow swamps, sloughs, and wet river bottoms. Water dispersal often results in seed deposition on muddy flats highly conducive to germination because seed dispersal occurs when water is receding after spring floods.  American sycamore is most commonly found in mixture with sweetgum, boxelder, silver and red maple, cottonwood, and willows.


Open-grown American sycamores usually begin flowering in 6-7 years.  Natural stands of sycamore usually produce appreciable numbers of seed at approximately 25 years; optimum seed production occurs from 50-200 years of age. 


USDA NRCS (2002). American sycamore plant guide. Retrieved from



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This particular organism is believed to have managed means of establishment.

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Platanus occidentalis


sec. Tennessee Flora 2014

common name: American sycamore
family: Platanaceae
Identified 2016-03-23 by Patrick Phoebus


Alumni Drive, Rutherford County, Tennessee, US
Click on these geocoordinates to load a map showing the location: 35.8451°, -86.3645°
Coordinate uncertainty about: 10 m.
Altitude: 190 m.

Location calculated as average of its images' coordinates.

Occurrences were recorded for this particular organism on the following dates:

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whole tree (or vine) - general
whole tree (or vine) - winter
whole tree (or vine) - winter
bark - unspecified
bark - of a large tree
leaf - whole upper surface

Tennessee Flora 2014 =

Tennessee Flora Committee, 2014. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Tennessee (editors: E. W. Chester, B. E. Wofford, J. Shaw, D. Estes, and D. H. Webb). The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN, US.

Metadata last modified: 2019-10-16T22:24:42.018-05:00
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