Common Name: Sycamore
Scientific Name: Acer pseudoplatanus
A Sycamore is a large, deciduous tree that was introduced into the UK from Europe around the 15th or 16th century. This tree can grow up to 35m in height and can live for over 400 years. Sycamore is known by many for producing the ‘helicopter’ winged seeds.
Leaves: Large leaves, growing up to 17cm across. The leaves are palmate with five toothed lobes. The stems of young leaves are usually red.
Buds: Pointed, egg-shaped buds grow on the tips of twigs. They are bright green and grow in opposite pairs.
Bark: The bark is smooth on young trees and dark pink-grey in colour. As the tree matures the bark develops cracks and plates with age that peel.
Form: Sycamore trees can form large domed crowns with a wide spreading canopy.
Flowers appear in April to May. Appearing at around the same time as the leaves, the flowers are very small, pendulous and green-yellow in colour. After pollination by the wind and insects, the female flowers form seeds that ripen in late summer. The seeds start off green, and as they ripen turn brown. Each seed has a wing attached to it, allowing them to fall like helicopters catching the wind. Sycamores are considered invasive due to their ability to spread rapidly and reseed, making them one of our most common trees. They can be found almost everywhere in the UK.
Sycamores are very fast growing, putting on up to 25 inches of growth per year. Seedlings can reach up to 10 feet tall in just one year. In 6 – 7 years, the tree starts to flower, however, they do not begin producing seeds until around 25 years of age.
The leaves of sycamore trees closely resemble plane tree leaves, and the scientific name for Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus, means ‘like a plane tree’.
The caterpillars of several moths feed on the leaves of Sycamores and the seeds provide food for many small mammals and birds. The flowers provide nectar and pollen to many insects including bees. Aphids are also attracted to Sycamore, bringing with them many predators including ladybirds, wasps and birds.
Properties of wood and uses
Sycamore timber has a hard, fine grain and is pale white in colour. It is used for producing furniture, veneer and musical instruments. Sycamore is planted in coastal areas as a windbreak due to its strength and tolerance to the wind.
Associated Pests & Disorders
Sooty Bark Disease
A fungal infection that can lay dormant for years inside the healthy wood of a Sycamore tree. Once active, sooty bark disease will wilt the crown of the tree and eventually, the tree will die.
Fruiting bodies of the fungus Rhytisma acerinum develop on the leaf litter at the base of the trees over winter. Spores are released in April-May, the spores are taken up to the tree canopy by the wind, where they affect the newly emerging leaves. The fungus causes a black spot on the surface of the leaf. No substantial damage is caused to the tree; however the fungus may cause the leaves to drop prematurely.
Sycamore is also susceptible to a variety of other fungal diseases.
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