American Sycamore


Often called a “camouflage tree” because of its mottled bark and yellow-brown colors in the fall, the American sycamore is an impressive tree that is well adapted to city life and is one of the largest trees in the eastern United States.

More detail: American sycamores’s Tree of the Month.

Common Name

American sycamore

Latin Name

Platanus occidentalis


Alternate, simple, with 3 to 5 lobes; margins coarsely toothed; broad base


Ball-shaped, with stickly red-colored petals extending from the surface


Hard, brown, oval/oblong sphere with short soft spikes


Zigzag, quite stout and orange-brown in color; leaf scar surrounds the bud and the stipule scar surrounds the twig; terminal bud is absent; lateral buds are reddish, resinous, with a single, cap-like scale


Thin, mottled brown, green, tan and white; older stems are gray-brown and scaly; often referred to as camouflage and readily exfoliates


Symmetrical canopy with a regular (or smooth) outline, round; spreading; pyramidal


Typically grows 75 to 90 feet tall and 50 to 70 feet wide

Native Range

Grows in all states east of the Great Plains except for Minnesota


Large deciduous tree

Seasonal Colors

Rapidly turns from green to yellow and then brown in the fall


Grows best in moist or wet alluvial* soils


Prefers full sunlight

Similar Species

London planetree, Oriental planetree, California sycamore

Pests and Diseases

Subject to bouts of anthracnose, causing large leaf falls. Aphids and sycamore lace bugs cause damage but are not fatal; however, bacterial leaf scorch can kill a tree in a few seasons.

Rebate Eligibility


Of Note

It is a member of one of the planet’s oldest clan of trees (Platanaceae) and paleobotanists have dated the family to be over 100 million years old.

Sycamores grow quickly and can live for hundreds of years.

Very often it divides into two or more trunks near the ground and its massive branches form a wide, irregular crown.

Coloring of mottling, leaf teeth/sinuses all different. Seed pods single vs pair in planetree.

Photo Credits

Tie Guy II(2)