The American Sycamore is one of the largest hardwood trees of the Eastern forests in the United States. It is related to the Plane Trees that are familiar street trees in many European cities. The North American tree, Platanus Occidentalis, is recognized by its leaves which are 4 to 8 inches long and wide. The leaves have 3 or 5 lobes somewhat like maple leaves but much larger. They are bright green and then turn yellow and finally brown in the fall. The bark is quite distinctive in that it peels off in flakes and leaves behind patches of white, brown, green and grey. To me the bark is the most beautiful thing about this tree. The flowers are tiny and the fruit is in the form of a 1 inch ball hanging from a long stalk. The seeds mature in the fall and are released in winter. These trees prefer the moist areas such as stream banks. The picture above was made beside the pond on Beaty St. in Davidson.
On the drive up I-40 from Statesville to Asheville you will see many Sycamores and in the fall they put on a lovely display of their yellow leaves. In the winter you can see the beautiful mottled patterns of the bark. Check them out on your next drive west.