American Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis

Platanus occidentalis, or American Sycamore, is a large deciduous tree that may grow 75 to 90 feet tall and a trunk diameter of 10 feet or more. It is one of the largest hardwood trees, by diameter, in North America. When siting this tree on your landscape, keep in mind that this will be a large tree for a large space.

The bark of the tree has a mottled look created by the darker outer layers peeling to expose the lighter inner layers. The bark peels off in patches and the whitened inner bark is the most ornamental trait of this plant. This plant is pyramidal in youth, and as it develops it becomes more rounded with an irregular crown and supported by a few large diameter branches. In spring, very small flowers mature in clusters, typically one cluster to a stalk.

Leaves commonly appear diagonally folded along two lines, such that the lateral sides project downwards, turning upward in fall as leaves dry to drop, hence in different planes.

This plant prefers full sun to deep, moist, fertile soils. It is tolerant of clay, sand, loam, alkaline, and wet soils and has moderate drought tolerance.

Photo by Jim Robbins CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Photo by Elizabeth Moss CC BY 4.0

Photo by Allen Bridgman CC BY 4.0

Photo by K. Mulcahy

Sources:,, other authoritative resources and personal experience.