Platanus occidentalis

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American Sycamore
A young American sycamore
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
(unranked):Angiosperms
(unranked):Eudicots
Order:Proteales
Family:Platanaceae
Genus:Platanus
Species:P. occidentalis
Binomial name
Platanus occidentalis
L.
 
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American Sycamore
A young American sycamore
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
(unranked):Angiosperms
(unranked):Eudicots
Order:Proteales
Family:Platanaceae
Genus:Platanus
Species:P. occidentalis
Binomial name
Platanus occidentalis
L.

Platanus occidentalis, also known as American Sycamore, American planetree, Occidental plane, and Buttonwood, is one of the species of Platanus native to North America. It is usually called Sycamore in North America, a name which can refer to other types of tree in other parts of the world.

Contents

Description

An American sycamore tree can often be easily distinguished from other trees by its mottled exfoliating bark, which flakes off in great irregular masses, leaving the surface mottled, and greenish-white, gray and brown. The bark of all trees has to yield to a growing trunk by stretching, splitting, or infilling; the Sycamore shows the process more openly than many other trees. The explanation is found in the rigid texture of the bark tissue, which lacks the elasticity of the bark of some other trees, so it is incapable of stretching to accommodate the growth of the wood underneath and the tree sloughs it off.[1]

A sycamore can grow to massive proportions, typically reaching up to 30 to 40 meters (98 to 130 ft) high and 1.5 to 2 meters (4.9 to 6.6 ft) in diameter when grown in deep soils. The largest of the species have been measured to 51 meters (167 ft), and nearly 4 meters (13 ft) in diameter. Larger specimens were recorded in historical times. In 1770, near the junction of the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers, George Washington recorded in his journal a sycamore measuring nearly 45 feet (14 m) in circumference at 3 feet (91 cm) from the ground.[2]

The sycamore tree is often divided near the ground into several secondary trunks, very free from branches. Spreading limbs at the top make an irregular, open head. Roots are fibrous. The trunks of large trees are often hollow.

Another peculiarity is the way the leaves grow sticky, green buds. In early August, most trees in general will have—nestled in the axils of their leaves—the tiny forming bud which will produce the leaves of the coming year. The sycamore branch apparently has no such buds. Instead there is an enlargement of the petiole which encloses the bud in a tight-fitting case at the base of the petiole.[1]

Platanus occidentalis GS344.png
The characteristic bark of an American Sycamore

Distribution

In its native range, it is often found in riparian and wetland areas. The range extends from Iowa to Ontario and Maine in the north, Nebraska in the west, and south to Texas and Florida. Closely related species (see Platanus) occur in Mexico and the southwestern states of the U.S.A. It is sometimes grown for timber, and has become naturalized in some areas outside its native range. It has grown well in Bismarck, North Dakota,[3] and is sold as far south as Okeechobee. The American Sycamore is also well adapted to life in Argentina and Australia and is quite widespread across the Australian continent especially in the cooler southern states such as Victoria and New South Wales.

Uses

A sycamore in winter.

The sycamore is able to endure a big city environment and has been extensively planted as a shade tree. It bears transplanting well and grows rapidly.[1]

Investigations have been made into its use as a biomass crop.[4]

Propagation and pests

The American sycamore is a favored food plant of the pest sycamore leaf beetle.

Diseases

Old sycamores can have massive trunks

American sycamore is susceptible to Plane anthracnose disease (Apiognomonia veneta, syn. Gnomonia platani), an introduced fungus naturally found on the Oriental plane P. orientalis, which has evolved considerable resistance to the disease. Although rarely killed or even seriously harmed, American sycamore is commonly partially defoliated by the disease, rendering it unsightly as a specimen tree.

The disease makes its appearance soon after the leaves have expanded, appearing in the form of small black spots which lie close to the veins. As a result, the half grown leaves turn brown, shrivel, and fall. It is very common in early July to see these trees putting forth their second crop of leaves while the first hang brown, dead, and unsightly on the ends of the branches. This greatly shortens the effective growing season for the plant.[1]

As a result of the fungus' damage, American sycamore is not often planted; the more resistant London plane (P. x hispanica; hybrid P. occidentalis x P. orientalis) being preferred instead.

History

The terms under which the New York Stock Exchange was formed are called the "Buttonwood Agreement", because it was signed under a buttonwood (sycamore) tree at 68 Wall Street, New York City, in 1792.

The sycamore made up a large part of the forests of Greenland and Arctic America during the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods. It once grew abundantly in central Europe, from which it has now disappeared.[1] It was brought to Europe early in the 17th century.[5]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scriber's Sons. pp. 263–268. 
  2. ^ Dale Luthringer (2007-03-22). "historical sycamore dimensions". Native Tree Society Eastern Native Tree Society. (Web link). Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  3. ^ 2010 NDSU – North Dakota Forest Service Register of Champion Trees
  4. ^ Devine, W.D.; Tyler, D.D.; Mullen, M.D.; Houston, A.E.; Joslin, J.D.; Hodges, D.G.; Tolbert, V.R.; Walsh, M.E. (2006). Conversion from an American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis L.) biomass crop to a no-till corn (Zea mays L.) system: Crop yields and management implications. Soil and Tillage Research. 87(1): 101-111.
  5. ^ Olmert, Michael (1996). Milton's Teeth and Ovid's Umbrella: Curiouser & Curiouser Adventures in History, p.217. Simon & Schuster, New York. ISBN 0-684-80164-7.

Bibliography

External links