The sycamore maple is a tall, stately deciduous tree with a distinctive bark that stands out from other maples and is somewhat reminiscent of that of the Platanus tree. This is even reflected in the sycamore's Latin species name - pseudoplatanus, which can be translated as "false Platanus tree." It is the largest maple and one of the largest representatives of its genus. It plays an important role in forming mountainous moist and shady forests, both as an element of their phytocenosis and as a source of valuable wood.
Sycamore Maple - Acer pseudoplatanus - also called sycamore, belongs to the soapberry family (Sapindaceae).
The soapberry family includes 144 genera, with about 1900 species distributed worldwide, except the circumpolar regions.
Many family representatives are of great commercial importance as fruit trees, among which the rambutan and the Chinese lychee are of most significant commercial importance. Maple syrup is obtained from various species of maple, and the seeds of Paulinia guarana and other species of the genus are rich in caffeine and are used in the preparation of a stimulating beverage. Soapberry seeds and fruits, rich in saponins, have been used as soaps. Sapindaceae also includes species grown as ornamental plants (chestnut, maple, bicentennial and rosemary).
It is native to central Europe and western Asia (from France eastward to Ukraine, northern Turkey, and the Caucasus, and in the mountains of northern Spain and Italy).
In other areas where it occurs, it has been introduced (other parts of Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand) and can become an invasive species.
It is most frequently found as an admixture in moist, shady mountain foliage and mixed woods, on the banks of mountain streams, in the trees in the midst of fields.
In the mountains, it sometimes forms compact stands.
Sycamore prefers areas with a cool and moist climate.
It grows in nutrient-rich, medium and stony soils. Young specimens tolerate partial shade well, while an adult tree is light-loving. It is resistant to pests and environmental pollution.
The sycamore is one of the largest trees among the maples.
It is a tall, stately tree with a straight, thick, regular trunk and a broad, strongly arched crown. When the trees grow in dense stands, the trunk is cleared of branches to a height of several meters. Trees growing singly are usually deeply branched. The crown of the sycamore is broad, obovate or spherical, domed, fairly densely branched. The branches are thick and robust, relatively straight and usually rise steeply.
The sycamore maple is known for its high resistance to being blown over by the wind.
Its strong root system anchors it firmly in the ground.
A characteristic feature of the sycamore that distinguishes it from other maples is its bark.
Young specimens have a silver-gray, smooth bark, sometimes with a black, sooty coating. Over time, the bark turns brownish, gray, or gray-black and is fissured into scaly sections. This makes it similar to Platanus trees, which is reflected in the Latin species name pseudoplatanus.
Sycamore leaves are lobed, single.
The blade is roundish, palmately lobed, large, 10-20 cm (3,93 - 7,87 in) long and about the same width, dark green on the upper surface and gray-green underneath, blunt, slightly hairy at the nerve angles on the underside. The lobes, 5 in number, are ovate, pointed at the end, separated by a wedge-shaped indentation, irregularly toothed or filed on the edges. The toothed edges are flatter and softer than in common maple.
The leaves are arranged opposite, and placed on very long petioles, 10 to 20 cm (3,93 - 7,87 in).
The petioles do not secrete milky sap, as is the case with the common maple. The leaves do not develop until the beginning of May, much later than in other maples. However, they change their color early in autumn (sometimes around the turn of August/September). This discoloration is usually lighter and less intense than in common maple and does not contain any orange or red tones.
The flowers of the sycamore are small, yellow-green, and perched on long, slightly hairy stems.
They are gathered in 20-50 pairs in pendulous, elongated inflorescences. The flowers are hermaphroditic or dioecious, are pollinated by insects and are very rich in nectar. The flowering period begins as soon as the leaves unfold, and this is also a characteristic that distinguishes the sycamore maple from common maple.
Sycamore growing in the open space begins to bloom at the age of 25-30 years.
In a compact stand - at about 40 years old.
The sycamore fruit is a double samara with a spherical nut and wings set at a slightly acute angle.
The wings are 3 - 5 cm (1,18 - 1,96 in) long and fall apart when ripe. The sycamore bears fruit abundantly every other year, with the fruit ripening between September and October.
The sycamore wood is very light, yellowish-white to almost white, glossy, with distinct rings and vessels visible to the naked eye.
It turns yellow when exposed to sunlight. Wood is hard but very flexible, medium strength, difficult to split, prone to warping and cracking, sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity. It is easy to work with, easy to bend, polish, dye, difficult to glue and highly flammable.
Sycamore wood is valued in the furniture and wood-turning industries.
It is used to make furniture, windows, haberdashery and musical instruments such as violins and some parts of pianos.
The two tallest sycamore trees in Europe grow in Denmark and England.
Both trees measure about 40 m (131 ft). Two slightly lower specimens are found in the Netherlands and Germany, with heights of 37 m and 36.9 m respectively (~121 ft).
The sycamore maple is a relatively long-lived tree that grows quite fast.
It reaches an age of 250-350 (up to 500) years. The growth rate is 50-100 cm per year and is rapid up to an age of about 20 years, and then it gradually slows down. At the age of about 100 years, the trees practically stop growing in height.
The sycamore maple is a melliferous plant.
It is popularly planted in parks for ornamental purposes and sometimes as a street tree, as it is tolerant of air pollution. Its wind tolerance means that the sycamore is often planted in coastal areas as a windbreak.
In the village of Tolpuddle in Dorset, England grows a sycamore tree, under which six English farmers, known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, formed a trade union in 1834.
They were accused of violating the Unlawful Oaths Act of 1797 and transported to Australia. However, a public outcry led to their release and return to the country. The tree's age is dated 1680, and its trunk circumference is 5.9 m (19,35 ft).
The English Sycamore Gap Tree also called the Robin Hood Tree, is a popular photo subject, one of the most photographed trees in England.
It grows next to the former defensive fortifications of the Roman province of Britannia (Hadrian's Wall) in Northumberland, in a very spectacular ravine. It owes its alternative name Robin Hood from its appearance in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. This sycamore was named Tree of the Year in England in 2016.