Saturday 15 June
Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)
Sycamore fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
The sycamore is a well-known tree, thought to have been introduced to Britain from Europe in the 15th or 16th Century (3). The domed crown is often broader than it is tall, as it can become very widely spread. The bark is grey and fissured, forming rectangular plates; orange patches may be revealed as these plates peels away. The dark green five-lobed leaves turn a deep golden-yellow colour in autumn (4). Both the shape and size of the leaves vary with the age of the tree (2). During April, many yellowish flowers grow in narrow, drooping heads (2). The paired, winged fruits are known to children as 'helicopters' in England because of their propeller-like path of descent (3).
- Height: up to 35 m (2)
The sycamore flowers in April, shortly after the leaves appear. The seeds ripen in autumn; their spiralling descent increases the time it takes for them to fall to the ground, and so maximises the chance that they will be dispersed further away from the parent tree in the wind (4). The maximum age of a sycamore is thought to be around 500 years (4). This species spreads very rapidly, quickly colonising new areas; it is removed from sensitive habitats by conservationists as it shades out native species. The tree is also notorious for producing a mucus-like slime as the leaves decompose, creating menacing conditions on footpaths, and bringing trains to a standstill. However, the leaves decompose rapidly and are now known to give a 'boost' to earthworm numbers. Furthermore, in urban areas, sycamores are often the only source of insect food (chiefly aphids) for birds such as house martens (Delichon urbica) (3).
Although it is not a native species, the sycamore has become a firmly established feature of many local cultures, as well as emblems of certain places. In Wales, clogs and love-spoons are fashioned from sycamore wood, harvest cakes were baked upon sycamore leaves in the West-country, and sycamores are often one of the first trees a child learns to recognise, by virtue of the 'helicopter' seeds. There are also many 'landmark' sycamores around the country, the most famous of which is the Martyrs' Tree on Tolpuddle Green in Dorset. In the 1830s, the Tolpuddle Martyrs formed the first agricultural trade union at meetings held beneath this famous tree; they were deported to Australia, as meetings of this kind were illegal at that time. The tree still survives, and is currently cared for by the Trades Union Congress (3).Top
The sycamore is native to central and southern Europe. It was introduced to Britain, where it was popular in parks and walkways for its shade-giving properties (2). It has since become naturalised, and is widespread (3).Top
In its native range, this tree occurs in woods and hedgerows. It is an extremely robust species, and in Britain thrives in many habitats, even in city parks, and by the coast where native trees become stunted (4).Top
Widespread and common (2).Top
This tree is not threatened.Top
Conservation action has not been targeted at this introduced species.Top
Find out moreTop
AuthenticationThis information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: email@example.comTop
- National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (Feb 2003): http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
- Humphries. C.J., Press, J.R. & Sutton, D.A. (2000) Hamlyn guide to trees of Britain and Europe. Hamlyn, London.
- Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.
- Godet, J. (1986) Collins photographic key to the trees of Britain and northern Europe: a guide to identification by leaves and needles. William Collins and Sons & Co Ltd, London.
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.