Consider Planting American Sycamore in Your Yard

Young girl holding her hand on a sycamore
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American sycamore (or Platanus Occidentalis) is readily adaptable to the urban environment and the Nation's most massive broadleaf tree. But being a large tree and the fact that sycamore is rot and damage prone, some people would eliminate it from a "consider planting" list.

Still, you might want to consider planting the three despite its significant shortcomings. People love its winter brilliance, it's creamy, shedding bark and growth potential.

The people have spoken.

Habit and Range

American sycamore is one of the simplest trees to grow and transplants like a dream. In North America, sycamore attains large tree status and grows 75' to 100' tall. Be forewarned - the sycamore should only be planted as a single yard specimen or in places where space is not a premium. Sycamore occupies one of the largest north-south ranges in North America - from Canada to Florida. The tree is very site tolerant and can grow under nearly any condition but is best adapted to creek banks.

Strong Cultivars

The best-known cultivar (and only one recommend you plant) is called London planetree and actually a hybrid (Platanus xacerifolia).

Expert Comments

Tree experts have the following to say about the American Sycamore:

"For four to six months of our winter dormancy period each year, the huge, white speckled boles and limbs of this tree make it the most conspicuous living organism along every river within its range." - Guy Sternberg, Native Trees for North American Landscapes

"Happiest in natural moist bottomlands, where it can grow or rot or split to its heart's content, the American sycamore struggles in cities."- Arthur Plotnik, The Urban Tree Book

"A great and noble tree."- Michael Dirr, Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs