Sycamore, California Platanus racemosa
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Hardiness Zones 7 - 10The California Sycamore can be expected to grow in the zones shown in color in the arborday.org zone map. View Map
Type of treeOrnamental Trees, Shade Trees
Mature HeightThe California Sycamore grows to be 40' - 100' feet in height.
Mature SpreadThe California Sycamore has a spread of about 40' - 70' at full maturity.
SunThis sycamore does well in full sun.
SoilThe California Sycamore grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, well drained, wet, wide range, clay soils.
ShapeThis sycamore has pyramidal, rounded shape.
The California Sycamore is a majestic native with a rapid growth rate. This tree's huge size makes it suitable only for the largest of landscapes. It tolerates a wide range of soil textures, acidic to alkaline, wet and compacted,and can be used for tough sites. It withstands heat and wind, but is only moderately drought tolerant when well established. The most distinctive features are the large, deeply lobed, hand shaped, green leaves and beautiful exfoliating bark that peels off to reveal mottled colors of white, tan, and brown. Stout, large- diameter branches form an irregular, oval crown and the trunk or trunks can be massive.
The California sycamore is large, tall tree with a fast growth rate. In youth it has a pyramidal and upright habit. With age it develops a spreading, irregular, oval or rounded crown of heavy, large-diameter branches. It typically has a single trunk which can be massive in older trees, but it may have multiple trunks. The large, thick green leaves have 3-5 deep lobes with little or slight yellow color change in the fall. The fruits are hairy, brown seed balls about 1" diameter that hang in groups of 2-7. At the base of the trunk, the bark is thick, rough and furrowed, dark gray or brown. Above, it is thin, smooth, ashy white, and flakes or peels off to show mottled colors of white, tan, and brown. The California sycamore tolerates many soil textures including acidic, alkaline, compacted, and wet. It has only moderate tolerance to salt and drought when well established. It grows best in moist soils that do not dry out. Dry soil can lead to a short life for this native riparian tree. The sycamore's potentially enormous size makes it best suited for large-scale landscapes. It has an aggressive root system. At least 12 feet (preferably more) should be allowed between the sidewalk and curb when planting as a street tree. Size, fruit, dense branching, roots, and moisture requirement all need be considered when planting this tree.
The California Sycamore provides food and nesting sites for birds including red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, and hummingbirds. It is a food source for the larva of the western tiger swallowtail butterfly.
California or western sycamore is native along the streams of valleys, foothills, and mountains of coastal, central and southern California to Mexico. Trees in the Sycamore family are valued for their wood for everything from musical instruments to cutting boards. These trees have been considered sacred by many people throughout ancient history.
The California Sycamore prefers moist, but not wet, soils.
Leaves are alternate, simple, palmately 3-5 lobed, 5"-10" long and wide, papery, light or dark green turning pale brown or slightly yellow in fall.
Tiny male and female flowers are in dense round heads, green.
The California Sycamore blooms in the spring.
The fruit is a 3/4"-1 1/4" hairy, dry, soft, brown ball hanging in groups of 2-7 on a long stalk. The ball encases a small seed about 1/8" in size.
Rate of growth refers to the vertical increase in growth unless specified differently. Rate, as is true for size, is influenced by numerous variables such as soil, drainage, water, fertility, light, exposure, ad infinitum. The designation slow means the plant grows 12” or less per year; medium refers to 13 to 24” of growth per year; and fast to 25” or greater.Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, by Michael Dirr.