Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus


The sycamore is the most important European species of the genus Acer. It is a tree of western, central and southern Europe, its northward distribution falling short of the Baltic Sea, but it is much planted elsewhere and now naturalized as far north as the Shetland Islands and southern Scandinavia. It is scattered throughout woods at elevations ranging from hill country to heights of 1500 metres, growing mainly in the mountains. Preferring a cool, humid climate and a well-drained soil, it is found predominantly in moun-tain valleys, scree woods and alongside mountain streams. It reaches a height of 30 to 35 metres and a trunk diameter of 150 centimetres, living for several hundred years. The bark is grey-brown, and peels off in small flat plates; the upright buds are green, the scales edged with brown. The long-stalked leaves are opposite, and the greenish flowers appear in April and May.

The sycamore has a large, spreading root system, but does not produce many stump sprouts. The hard, light-coloured wood is used to make furniture, veneers and musical instruments. The decorative wood with a curly pattern is highly prized. During the Napoleonic Wars attempts were made to produce sugar from the sap of the European maples.

Leaves: Palmate, 5—7 lobed and coarsely toothed, 7—16 cm across, grey-green below, with serrate margin; stalk docs not exude milky sap when broken. Flowers: Small, yellow-green in pendent racemes. Fruit: Double samara with wings forming an acute angle. Seed: Globular.