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Florida 4-H Forest Ecology

Florida 4-H Forest Ecology

American Sycamore

Platanus occidentalis
Family: Platanaceae

Natural History

Leaves and fruit of American sycamore | Photo credit: Larry Korhnak, University of Florida

Sycamore - also known as American planetree, buttonball tree, or buttonwood - is a common shade tree throughout much of the eastern United States. It is one of the largest broadleaf tree species in North America.

Its distinctive fruits, flaking bark, and large, lobed leaves make it easy to spot. The roots of the trees intertwine and help to stabilize soils, so sycamores are often grown to minimize erosion - especially along stream banks. They are useful in reclamation sites, due to the trees' tolerance to saturated soils, or acidic conditions. In Florida, sycamores have been planted over phosphate mining sites.

The trees are susceptible to damage from high winds, ice, pollutants in the air, and a variety of insects and diseases, and may also suffer from scorched bark in fire-prone areas.

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