Landowner Fact Sheets

American sycamore Platanus occidentalis play

Sycamore is a large, deciduous species of wide distribution across the eastern and central U.S. It commonly occurs along the banks of waterways and adjacent bottomlands, although it has proven adaptable and has even been planted widely on mine spoils. Sycamore's eye-catching white and gray exfoliating bark has led to considerable ornamental use.

range map Click to see more images. fall color wood grain

Sycamore's intermediate shade tolerance, fast growth, and generally pioneering nature allow for regeneration by various methods. Clearcut, seed-tree, shelterwood, and group selection methods are all viable options. Sycamore is also a vigorous stump sprouter.

Sycamore is most commonly found on alluvial soils, but may also colonize any disturbed site.


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.

Timber Value
Sycamore is used for furniture, interior trim, boxes, pulpwood, particle and fiber board.

Wildlife Value
Sycamore seeds are eaten by wildlife. The hollows in old riparian trees are often used as nesting sites for birds and mammals.
Attracts squirrels, muskrats, beavers, wood ducks, finches, chickadees, dark-eyed junco

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
Sycamore produces biomass more rapidly than most other trees and develops into one of the most massive trees in the East. It is used for lumber and wood pulp.

Latin Meaning
Platanus: Greek "platanos" (broad or flat) / occidentalis: western - Latin "occidere" (to set, as the sun)

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.