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Native or Introduced to Illinois: native
Natural Habit in Illinois: bottomlands woods; floodplains; along streams; around lakes and ponds
Leaf: Alternate, simple, palmately veined, 4 to 8 inches wide, ovate in shape, with three to five lobes. Margins are toothed. Veins may be pubescent below. Petiole bases encircle the buds.
Flower: Not showy. Male and female appearing March to April in separate spherical heads.
Fruit: A spherical multiple of achenes borne on a 3 to 6 inch stalk. Each seed is tiny, winged, and 1/2 inch long. Maturing in November, disseminating in late winter.
Twig: Obviously zigzag, quite stout and orange-brown in color. The leaf scar surrounds the bud and the stipule scar surrounds the twig. The terminal bud is absent. Lateral buds are reddish, resinous, with a single scale.
Bark: Thin, mottled brown, green and white. Often referred to as "camouflage" bark that readily exfoliates. Older stems are gray-brown and scaly.
Size/Form/Shape: A very massive tree with heavy, spreading branches with obviously zigzag twigs. In winter, the fruits resemble Christmas tree ornaments.
American sycamore is a good planting where a large, fast-growing tree is desired. Negative features are the relatively weak limbs (susceptible to wind and ice damage) and the large leaves that decay slowly after falling. The huge size quickly attained by these trees is often underestimated. The London planetree, Platanus hybrida Brot. (= Platanus acerifolia (Ait.) Willd.), is widely planted as a street tree, probably due to its disease resistance and tolerance of air pollution (American sycamore is susceptible to ozone damage). The London plane is a hybrid between American sycamore and oriental plane (P. orientalis) and perhaps includes a number of backcrosses.
American sycamore is recommended for planting on all types of strip-mined land, and it is useful in rehabilitation of various sites with saturated soils. It is often a natural early colonizer of disturbed sites such as old fields, spoil banks, streambanks degraded by channelization, and waterway disposal sites.
Native Americans used sycamore for a variety of medicinal purposes, including cold and cough remedies, as well as dietary, dermatological, gynecological, respiratory, and gastrointestinal aids.
County Distribution Map for Illinois:
Sources for the Sullivan Middle School Tree Identification Guide were obtained though the use of the following sites:
- Illinois Plant Information Network (ILPIN) @ http://www.fs.fed.us/ne/delaware/ilpin/ilpin.html#Background
- List of Woody Plants Native or Naturalized in Illinois @ http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/~kenr/woody.html
- Tree Species @ http://ostermiller.org/tree/species.html
- Index to Eastern/Central Trees @ http://www.arborday.org/trees/ECtreelist.html
- ISU Forestry Extension Identification of Common Trees of Iowa @ http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Pages/tree/
- Key to Leaves of Virginia Trees @ http://www.fw.vt.edu/dendro/forsite/key/intro.htm
- List of Native Trees for Use Along Roadsides in Illinois @ http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/~kenr/treetable.html
- The PLANTS Database @ http://plants.usda.gov/