buttonball, buttonwood, plane tree

Platanus occidentalis Linnaeus

Sycamore is a large-sized forest tree common throughout the state except in the Adirondacks and the higher Catskills and on Long Island. This species is most often found wherever the soil is moist and fertile, along streams, in river bottoms, in low, damp woods, and occasionally in dryer places. Its wood is heavy, tough, hard, not strong, coarse-grained, reddish brown in color, and is difficult to split or work. It is used for crates, tobacco boxes, butchers' blocks, novelties, and occasionally for furniture and for interior woodwork.

Bark - dark brown in color at base of older trunks, shallowly furrowed into broad ridges which are broken up into small plate-like scales; higher up on trunk and branches, peeling off in large, thin plates exposing areas of whitish, yellowish, or greenish inner bark which are very striking in winter.

Twigs - rather stout, somewhat shiny, zigzag, at first green in color and fuzzy, later grayish or brownish and smooth.

Winter buds - terminal bud absent; lateral buds conical, dull-pointed, smooth, reddish brown in color, 1/4 inch long, only a single scale visible forming a cap over the bud.

Leaves - alternate, simple, broad, 4 to 10 inches across, with 3 to 5 shallow lobes, thin, firm, smooth, bright green in color above, pale green and white woolly below, the base of the stalk surrounding the bud.

Fruit - a ball, brown in color, about 1 inch in diameter, borne on a long stem, made up of tiny seeds. Seeds - each furnished with a long tuft of hairs; seed balls seldom break up before spring.

Distinguishing features - whitish to greenish under-bark on upper trunk and limbs; bud with 1 scale forming cap; broad leaves, woolly below; fruit a brown, pebbly-grained ball.

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