Sycamore, American — The American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), also known as American plane, Occidental plane, and Buttonwood, is one of the species of Platanus native to North America. It is usually called Sycamore in North America, a name which can also refer to other types of tree.
A sycamore tree is easily recognized by its mottled exfoliating bark. The bark of all trees has to yield to a growing trunk; in the case of trees such as the Silver Maple and the Shagbark Hickory the process is not hidden, but the Sycamore shows the process of exfoliation more openly than any other tree. The bark of the trunk and larger limbs flakes off in great irregular masses, leaving the surface mottled, and greenish-white, gray and brown. Sometimes the smaller limbs look as if whitewashed. The explanation is found in the rigid texture of the bark tissue, which entirely lacks the expansive power common to the bark of other trees, so it is incapable of stretching to accommodate the growth of the wood underneath and the tree sloughs it off.
A sycamore can grow to massive proportions, typically reaching up to 30 to 40 meters (about 98’ to 131’) high and 1.5 to 2 meters (about 4’11” to 6’6”) in diameter when left to grow in deep soils. At its tallest, the species has been measured to 51 meters (about 167’), and at its largest, it has been measured to nearly 4 meters (about 13’1”) in diameter. Historical specimens over 5 meters (about 16’5”) thick have been reported, but verifying the accuracy of these early accounts is seldom possible.
The sycamore tree is often divided near the ground into several secondary trunks, very free from branches. Spreading limbs at the top make an irregular, open head. Roots are fibrous. The trunks of large trees are often hollow.