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Acer pseudoplatanus

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Sapindaceae (Maple)
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
35 metres tall
Fields, gardens, hedgerows, mountains, parks, riverbanks, riversides, roadsides, swamps, towns, waterside, woodland.

Green, 4 petals
Male and female flowers exist on the same tree. Yellowish-green hanging catkin-like clusters. No petals and 5 sepals per flower. Wind and insect pollinated.
Winged fruit known as keys (or samaras). A common nickname for the fruit is a helicopter or whirlybird.
A deciduous tree. The leaves of Sycamore are palmately lobed, with 3 to 5 lobes. The leaves are between 4 and 7 inches in size and are arranged alternately along the stems. The margins of the leaves are round-toothed. The leaves turn yellow in autumn before falling to the ground. The leaves are sometimes covered in dark black spots with a yellow outline. This is a disease called tar spot which is caused by a fungus called 'rhytisma acerinum'. Tar spot is harmless and is an indication that the air surrounding the tree is clean.
The flowers smell sweet.
Other Names:
Celtic Maple, English Sycamore, European Sycamore, False Plane Tree, Great Maple, Mock Plane, Mount Maple, Planetree Maple, Scottish Maple, Sycamore Maple.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Acer pseudoplatanus, commonly known as sycamore maple or false plane tree, is a species of maple tree in the Aceraceae family. It is native to central and southern Europe, and can be found in a variety of habitats such as forests, woodlands, and along rivers and streams. It can reach a height of up to 35m, with a broad crown and a thick trunk. The bark is smooth and gray on young trees, becoming rougher and furrowed with age. The leaves are large and palmate, with five lobes, and they turn yellow or orange in the fall. The tree produces winged seeds in clusters, called samaras, that hang from long stalks. A. pseudoplatanus is often used as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens, and it is also used in forestry and timber production.


Sycamore, scientifically known as Acer pseudoplatanus, is a deciduous tree that belongs to the family Aceraceae. It is native to central Europe and southwestern Asia but has been introduced to other parts of the world as an ornamental tree. In this blog, we'll explore some of the key features and characteristics of the Sycamore tree.

Appearance and Features

Sycamore trees are known for their striking appearance, with large, bright green leaves that can grow up to 10 inches wide. The leaves have a distinctive shape, with five lobes and a pointed tip. In the autumn, the leaves turn a bright yellow color before falling from the tree.

The bark of the Sycamore tree is another striking feature, with a mottled, light grey appearance that peels away in small flakes. The tree can grow up to 35 meters tall and has a broad, spreading crown. The flowers of the tree are small, greenish-yellow and appear in the early spring before the leaves.

Habitat and Cultivation

The Sycamore tree is a hardy species that can grow in a range of habitats, from woodlands to urban areas. It prefers moist, well-drained soil and can tolerate both sun and partial shade. It is often planted in parks and gardens as an ornamental tree, but also has a range of practical uses.


The Sycamore tree has a long history of use in Europe, where it has been valued for its timber, which is strong, durable, and easy to work with. The wood is used for a range of purposes, including furniture, flooring, and musical instruments.

The sap of the Sycamore tree has also been used in traditional medicine for its diuretic and laxative properties. In addition, the tree has been used as a source of food for wildlife, including squirrels, birds, and deer.

Environmental Benefits

Sycamore trees also provide a range of environmental benefits. They are effective at absorbing carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the air, helping to improve air quality. The trees also provide shade and help to regulate temperatures in urban areas, reducing the urban heat island effect.

The Sycamore tree is a beautiful and versatile species that has been valued for its timber, ornamental qualities, and environmental benefits. With its distinctive appearance and range of practical uses, it is a tree that continues to play an important role in our lives and communities.

Facts about the Sycamore tree

Here's some additional information about the Sycamore tree:

  • In some cultures, the Sycamore tree has a symbolic meaning. In Celtic mythology, the tree was associated with the goddess Brigid and was believed to have healing properties. In ancient Egypt, the Sycamore tree was considered a sacred tree and was associated with the goddesses Hathor and Nut.

  • The Sycamore tree is also known for its fast growth rate, and it can reach a height of 20 meters in just 25 years. This makes it an ideal tree for reforestation projects.

  • In addition to its environmental benefits, the Sycamore tree also provides a range of ecosystem services. The leaves, bark, and wood of the tree are all used by a variety of insect and bird species, providing food and shelter.

  • The Sycamore tree is a dioecious species, which means that there are separate male and female trees. The female trees produce winged fruits called samaras, which are dispersed by the wind and can travel a considerable distance from the parent tree.

  • Despite its many benefits, the Sycamore tree can also be considered an invasive species in some areas. It can spread quickly and outcompete native species, reducing biodiversity. In these cases, it is important to manage the population of Sycamore trees to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

Overall, the Sycamore tree is a fascinating and valuable species with a range of uses and benefits. Its distinctive appearance and fast growth rate make it a popular choice for both ornamental and practical purposes, and it continues to play an important role in ecosystems around the world.

The Sycamore tree has a long history of use in traditional medicine. In ancient times, the sap of the tree was used to treat a variety of ailments, including skin conditions, respiratory problems, and digestive disorders. The bark and leaves of the tree were also used in herbal remedies. Today, modern research has shown that the Sycamore tree contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which may explain some of its traditional medicinal uses.

In addition to its use as a timber tree, the Sycamore tree has a variety of other practical applications. Its strong and flexible wood has been used for making sports equipment, such as tennis rackets, as well as tool handles, veneers, and even aircraft parts. The bark of the tree has also been used for tanning leather and making paper.

The Sycamore tree is a popular choice for urban landscaping, as it is tolerant of pollution, heat, and drought. It is often planted along city streets and in public parks, where it provides shade and visual interest. However, it is important to note that the tree's large size and spreading roots can cause problems if it is planted too close to buildings or underground infrastructure.

The Sycamore tree is also known for its role in art and literature. In Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the character Bottom is transformed into a donkey while sleeping under a Sycamore tree. The tree has also been the subject of paintings and drawings by artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet.

It's worth noting that the Sycamore tree is not to be confused with the American Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, which is a separate species native to North America. While the two trees have similar bark and leaf shapes, they are distinct species with different ranges and characteristics.

The Sycamore tree is a fascinating and valuable species with a long history of use and a range of practical and cultural applications. Its distinctive appearance and environmental benefits make it a popular choice for landscaping and reforestation projects, while its use in traditional medicine and industry speaks to its versatility and durability.

More Information

Here is some additional information about the Sycamore tree:

  • The Sycamore tree is a deciduous tree, which means that it sheds its leaves in the fall and grows new ones in the spring. The leaves of the Sycamore are large and palmate, which means that they have several lobes that spread out like fingers on a hand. They turn yellow or brown in the fall before dropping off the tree.

  • The bark of the Sycamore tree is one of its most distinctive features. It has a mottled appearance, with patches of white, gray, and brown. The bark is also thick and rugged, with deep furrows and ridges that can make it difficult to climb.

  • Sycamore trees are known to be long-lived, with some individuals living for more than 400 years. The oldest known Sycamore tree in the UK is located in Essex, and is estimated to be more than 500 years old. In the US, there are several Sycamore trees that are believed to be more than 200 years old.

  • The Sycamore tree is a popular food source for a variety of wildlife species. In the fall, the tree produces abundant seeds that are eaten by birds and small mammals. The leaves of the tree are also a food source for caterpillars, which in turn are eaten by birds. The tree's flowers are a source of nectar for bees and other pollinators.

  • The Sycamore tree has a wide geographic range, and can be found throughout much of Europe and parts of Asia. It is also cultivated in North America and other regions as an ornamental tree. In some areas, the Sycamore tree is considered an invasive species, as it can outcompete native plants and reduce biodiversity. In these cases, it is important to manage the tree's population to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

Overall, the Sycamore tree is a fascinating species with a range of ecological and cultural significance. Its unique appearance and long lifespan make it a popular choice for both ornamental and practical purposes, while its role in supporting wildlife and providing ecosystem services speaks to its importance as a keystone species.

And some more facts...

Here are some additional interesting facts about the Sycamore tree:

  • The Sycamore tree is sometimes called the "Ghost tree" due to the ghostly appearance of its white bark. The white patches are caused by the shedding of the outer layers of the bark, which are then colonized by fungi and other organisms.

  • The Sycamore tree is often associated with water, and is frequently found growing near rivers, streams, and wetlands. It is thought that this association is due to the tree's ability to tolerate waterlogged soil.

  • The Sycamore tree has been used in traditional folklore and mythology in various cultures. In Greek mythology, the Sycamore was associated with the goddess Athena, who was said to have created the first Sycamore tree. In Celtic mythology, the tree was believed to have magical powers and was associated with the concept of transformation.

  • The Sycamore tree has a close relationship with a species of moth called the Sycamore moth (Acronicta aceris). The moth lays its eggs on the leaves of the Sycamore tree, and the resulting caterpillars feed on the leaves. In large numbers, these caterpillars can defoliate entire trees.

  • The Sycamore tree has been used in architecture for centuries. In England, it was often used as a building material for the timber frames of houses, due to its strength and durability. The wood was also used to make doors, windows, and furniture.

  • The Sycamore tree has been the subject of many works of art and literature over the centuries. In addition to Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the tree has been referenced in the works of numerous poets and authors, including William Wordsworth and Virginia Woolf. It has also been the subject of many paintings and drawings, including works by J.M.W. Turner and Paul Cézanne.

Overall, the Sycamore tree is a fascinating and versatile species with a rich cultural and ecological history. Its distinctive appearance, practical applications, and environmental benefits make it an important species for both human and wildlife populations, while its role in art and literature speaks to its enduring cultural significance.


Video 1: Sycamore filmed by the side of Worthington Lakes, Lancashire on the 12th July 2022.


Video 2: The Sycamore filmed at Haigh Hall, Lancashire on the 27th April 2023 and at Formby on the 4th June 2023.


Tar Spot on Sycamore Leaves: Unveiling the Fungal Culprit


Sycamore trees (Acer pseudoplatanus) are a common sight across the United Kingdom, with their majestic canopies providing shade and beauty in parks, woodlands, and gardens. However, keen observers may have noticed the unsightly blemishes that sometimes mar the leaves of these iconic trees. These blemishes are the result of a fungal infection known as "Tar Spot." In this article, we will explore the intricacies of Tar Spot, from its causes and symptoms to potential management strategies.

Understanding Tar Spot

Tar Spot, scientifically known as Rhytisma acerinum, is a fungal disease that primarily affects Sycamore trees. It is a well-documented occurrence in the United Kingdom, especially during late summer and autumn. The name "Tar Spot" is derived from the appearance of the disease, which manifests as dark, raised spots on the leaves, resembling drops of tar. These spots can vary in size, ranging from a few millimeters to over a centimeter in diameter.

Causes of Tar Spot

The Tar Spot fungus requires specific environmental conditions to thrive. It is most prevalent in areas with consistent high humidity and moderate rainfall, making the UK an ideal habitat. The infection typically starts in spring as the fungus overwinters on fallen Sycamore leaves. Spores are then released in the spring, carried by the wind, and land on new leaves, initiating the infection process.

Symptoms of Tar Spot

  1. Black Spots: The most apparent symptom of Tar Spot is the formation of black spots on the upper surface of Sycamore leaves. These spots often start small and gradually expand in size as the infection progresses.

  2. Yellow Halos: Around the black spots, infected leaves may develop yellow or brownish halos. This discoloration adds to the distinctive appearance of Tar Spot-infected leaves.

  3. Premature Leaf Drop: As the disease advances, the affected leaves may prematurely drop from the tree. This can weaken the tree over time, but it usually doesn't result in severe harm unless the infection is widespread and persistent over several years.

Tar Spot on Sycamore leaves:
Tar Spot on Sycamore leaves

Impact on Sycamore Trees

While Tar Spot can be unsightly and lead to premature leaf drop, it typically does not cause long-term harm to mature Sycamore trees. Healthy trees are generally capable of withstanding the infection without significant consequences. However, young or stressed trees may be more susceptible to damage.

Management and Prevention

  1. Good Garden Hygiene: Raking and disposing of fallen Sycamore leaves can help reduce the presence of overwintering fungal spores, decreasing the chances of infection in the following spring.

  2. Pruning and Thinning: Proper pruning and thinning of the tree's canopy can improve air circulation, reducing humidity levels around the leaves and making it less favorable for Tar Spot development.

  3. Fungicides: In severe cases or when dealing with valuable specimens, fungicides may be used as a last resort. Consult a professional arborist or horticulturist for guidance on the appropriate fungicide and application method.


While Tar Spot may be a common fungal disease affecting Sycamore trees in the UK, it is generally a cosmetic issue rather than a threat to the tree's overall health. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and management strategies, gardeners and arborists can effectively deal with Tar Spot and maintain the beauty and vitality of these beloved trees. Remember that maintaining good garden hygiene and providing proper care to your Sycamore trees are key steps in preventing and mitigating Tar Spot infections.

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