Virginia Tech Dendrology

American sycamore Platanaceae Platanus occidentalis L. Listen to the Latin play symbol: PLOC
Leaf: Alternate, simple, palmately veined, 4 to 8 inches wide, ovate in shape, with three to five lobes, margins coarsely toothed, petiole bases encircle and enclose the buds, veins may be pubescent below.
Flower: Species is monoecious; imperfect, both male and females are very small and appear in dense round clusters, typically a single cluster to a stalk, appearing with the leaves.
Fruit: A spherical multiple of achenes borne on a 3 to 6 inch stalk. Each seed is tiny, winged, and 1/2 inch long; maturing in November, disseminating in late winter.
Twig: Obviously zigzag, quite stout and orange-brown in color; leaf scar surrounds the bud and the stipule scar surrounds the twig; terminal bud is absent; lateral buds are reddish, resinous, with a single, cap-like scale.
Bark: Thin, mottled brown, green, tan and white; older stems are gray-brown and scaly. The most striking feature of this tree, often referred to as "camouflage" bark that readily exfoliates.
Form: A very massive tree with heavy, spreading branches with obviously zigzag twigs reaching up to and over 100 feet tall. In winter, the persistent fruits resemble Christmas tree ornaments.
Looks like: London plane tree - California sycamore - Arizona sycamore
leaf flower fruit twig bark form1 map
Additional Range Information: Platanus occidentalis is native to North America. Range may be expanded by planting. See states reporting American sycamore.
More Information: Fall Color - Wood - Landowner Factsheet
External Links: USDAFS Silvics of North America - USDAFS Additional Silvics - USDA Plants Database - Horticulture Information - USDAFS Forest Products Lab
All material © 2017 Virginia Tech Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; Photos and text by: John Seiler, Edward Jensen, Alex Niemiera, and John Peterson