Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Young sycamore tree (American planetree)

Fast growing native tree



This young sycamore (aka American planetree, buttonwood, or buttonball) tree is growing along the road ditch near the bottom of a hill. In this spot, it receives ample moisture, and it is flourishing. Look how it is shooting out new leaves.

Sycamores grow very quickly. I've had personal experience with this. About ten years ago, we transplanted a sycamore seedling that sprang up in my garden. It has grown to at least 50 feet of height now, and its ultimate height and breadth will be as much as 100 feet. It likes the area where it is planted -- a section of our little acreage that is not well-drained.  A few inches of water sometimes stand there after heavy rains, and the soil stays "squishy" most of the winter and spring.

Fortunately, it doesn't really matter how well we mow around our sycamore. This sycamore, as is typical of the species, has a lot of roots along the surface of the soil. The long, protruding, root "branches" can be a problem in a well-groomed yard because they're difficult to mow across.

The extensive system of heavy surface roots helps the sycamore to "hang on" in wet areas where the soil sometimes turns muddy or is completely washed away -- such as the stream bank where a sycamore is clinging, in the photo below.

Sycamore's Latin name is Platanus occidentalis. It is found in most of the eastern U.S., and it can be easily recognized by its large leaves and its mottled and peeling white bark. Look for it along waterways.

I've written quite a lot about sycamores. If you're interested in them, be sure to click the "scyamore trees" label for more articles.


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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

Photos and text copyright © 2006-2010 by Genevieve L. Netz. All rights reserved. Do not republish without written permission. My e-mail address is gnetz51@gmail.com