The sycamore is a grand, stately shade tree for a larger site. It has broad green leaves but is most recognizable by its peeling bark, with patches of white and gray. Native to the Chicago region, sycamores have very high wildlife value, attracting a wide range of birds that use the tree for many purposes.
This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.
All common names:
- Residential and parks,
- City parkway,
- Wide median
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Shade tree,
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Alkaline soil,
- Wet soil
- Wet sites,
- Occasional flooding,
- Alkaline soil,
- Clay soil,
- Road salt
- Moderately Tolerant
- Messy fruit/plant parts
- Showy fruit,
- Attractive bark
Seasons of Interest:
- early winter,
- late winter,
- early fall,
- mid fall,
- late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Insect pollinators,
- Small mammals
Tree & Plant Care
Plants grow best in moist, deep, rich well-drained soil in full sun. Does not tolerate shady sites.
Soil pH adaptable, moderately salt tolerant
Do not grow sycamore near septic fields.
Can be a messy tree since it drops a lot of leaves, twigs and fruit.
Disease, pests, and problems
Can be affected by anthracnose, leafspots, aphids, plant bug, scales, bagworm, and borers.
Also susceptible to frost cracks.
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.
Tolerant of high pH soil.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to eastern U. S. along rivers and streams and rich bottomland.
Occasionally grows in upland sites.
Bark color and texture
Unique, gray-brown flaky scales that shed to expose mottled peeling patches of white, gray, and green. Trees become nearly white near the top.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Alternate, 4 to 9 inch wide leathery leaves have 3 to 5 lobes, similar to maple.
The leaf surface is bright green and paler underneath., margins are broadly toothed.
Fall color is brown.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Monoecious, with separate male and female flowers on the same tree. Flowers appear in early spring with the leaves as dense globose balls on long stalks (peduncles).
Male flowers are green , females are showier, bright burgundy-red.
Not ornamentally important .
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
A singular, 1-inch, ball-like seed head hangs from long stalks. Seeds shatter during winter months.