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The American Sycamore (Platanus Occidentalis L.) is also known as planetree, buttonwood, and buttonball-tree. It grows in all states east of the Great Plains except Minnesota. It grows to a larger diameter than any other American Hardwood. Trees are on record to exceed 10 feet in diameter and an individual tree in Indiana was 33 feet in circumference 4 feet above the ground and 168 feet tall. Usually they are 2' - 4' in diameter and have broadly ovate leaves 4" - 8" wide that resemble Maple leaves. They have "globular heads of seeds" 1" - 1-1/2" in diameter that hang down singly from a 3" - 6" slender stem. The bark is smooth, whitish and mottled which can peel off in large thin flakes that exposes patches of brown and gray. Bases of large trunks can be dark brown and deeply furrowed with scaly ridges.
The wood is only moderately heavy and hard (sp. Gravity 0.47) and is an easily machined straight grained and uniformly colored wood. The heartwood is light brown and is not readily distinguished from the sapwood by color, although it can have an orange or reddish color. It is interchangeable with yellow poplar as an interior wood. Quartersawn Sycamore, however, is highly prized for an outrageous fleck figure and is used for interior trim and paneling and other special applications.
© 2001 by David Mather. All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author.