Sycamore Tree General Information
Belonging to the genus Acer and a member of the Maple family, the Sycamore tree is a very large deciduous tree with a magnificent domed canopy and capable of reaching heights of up to 35m. The Sycamore is a common native tree to central eastern and southern Europe and was introduced to the UK during the Middle Ages and is now one of our most common and widespread trees, being found almost everywhere. The Sycamore is often considered invasive due to the winged seeds ability to spread rapidly and reseed. The Sycamore is a very hardy, robust tree which is very popular in parks, gardens and avenues due to the lovely shade they create. The Sycamore can live to well over 400 years.
Like other Maples, the Sycamore produces a very good timber of pale cream to almost white in colour, with a fine, hard grain and strength similar to that of the Oak. The timber makes attractive furniture and is ideal for wooden bowls, spoons, etc as it does not taint or stain food. It is also highly prized for making musical instruments and for producing veneer.
Description of a Sycamore Tree
The Sycamore is a deciduous tree with bark that is dark grey and smooth when young, becoming cracked and flaky as the tree matures and has stout twigs with fat green buds. The leaves are large and maple shaped, dark green in colour, turning a beautiful deep golden colour in autumn, when this tree really stands out. The flowers are small and grow in a panicle arrangement, drooping as grapes grow and are a green, yellow in colour. Flowering in April to May, flowers to the base are usually female, to the centre male and those towards the tip are sterile. The paired, winged fruit or keys are green, tinged with red and ripen to brown, spinning down like helicopter wings when the drop. The Sycamore is both wind and insect pollinated.
Cultivation of a Sycamore Tree
Sycamores are a fast growing trees which are capable of growing in a wide range of soils. To be at their very best they require a rich, fertile soil which should be moist but well drained. The Sycamore does less well on heavy clay or poor sandy soil and does not tolerate waterlogged or very dry sites. The Sycamore is also cold hardy, very tolerant of exposure, salt spray and pollution.
Pests & Diseases of a Sycamore Tree
Sooty Bark, which is a serious pathogen and in hot dry weather can spread throughout the wood leading to partial or total wilting of the crown and death. Verticillium wilt can be fatal in newly planted Sycamores, which once present is difficult to eradicate. Sycamore leaves are sometimes affected by tar spot, a fungus causing black patches on the leaves. They are also at high risk of bark stripping by the grey squirrel.
Regularly inspect your Sycamore trees for early signs of any diseases before they become a danger from falling branches and dead material. As soon as you are concerned about the health of your tree, contact a qualified professional tree surgeon who will be able to advise the best course of action to take.
Pruning / Pollarding of a Sycamore Tree
The sap of the Sycamore (like other Maples) rises early in the Winter and is at its strongest in Spring, therefore the Sycamore should never be pruned in Spring as this could cause the Sycamore to bleed to death.
For a light prune of unwanted branches, June is the best time of year but for a more drastic prune the ideal time is between October and December. To avoid damage to the crown any branches that are competing with each other and are growing straight up through the crown need to be removed completely, taking care not to damage branch collars. From time to time the Sycamore crown may need thinning out, especially if the crown has a lot of dead wood and leaf coverage is becoming sparser. This will allow more air a light through to the branches and should be done in June.
Sycamores can be pollarded to keep them at a desired height and create a ball shaped canopy, this is best started when the tree is young and should be carried out in Winter. Once this type of pruning is performed it will need to be done each year to maintain the trees shape and size. Pollarding a Sycamore tree can be very useful when neighbour disputes arise due to the size a Sycamore can grow, blocking out light, etc and is usually a good compromise. If your neighbour is complaining about your Sycamore tree, or you are concerned that your tree is growing too big, consult a professional tree surgeon who will be able to advise the best, long term solution for your tree.