Discover Nature: Sycamores

Nov 28, 2017

Bare white limbs of sycamore trees reach skyward in a showy display, even without colorful leaves. These native trees play an integral role in Missouri’s stream-side woodland habitat. Watch for their stark outline in the woods once most leaves have fallen from trees.
Credit Missouri Department of Conservation

Now that most leaves have fallen from Missouri’s trees, look for the smooth, white limbs of a giant rising over streams and river banks: Discover Nature this week with the American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis).

A living sentinel of our streams, sycamores provide year-round food and shelter for river wildlife.

Migrating songbirds, woodpeckers, wood ducks, and raccoons nest in its hollow cavities. Great blue herons and bald eagles build their bulky nests in its branches. And its roots shelter game fish and other aquatic wildlife, while stabilizing soil against heavy rain and erosive floods.

Even its broad leaves, which shade and cool water temperatures in summer, become food for insects and feed nutrients back to the soil when they fall.

An integral part of stream-side habitats, sycamores grow larger than any other deciduous tree in the United States.

Early explorers reported sycamores with trunks as large as 47-feet in circumference! For comparison, Missouri’s current champion sycamore measures approximately 19-feet in circumference (measured at four feet above the ground).

Learn more about the American Sycamore with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.