California Gardens - The Year Round Gardening Site

Platanus racemosa - California Sycamore, Western Sycamore

Platanus racemosa, the California Sycamore or Western Sycamore can become an incredible specimen. The white bark, and the large foliage will not only visually cool down a landscape, but the large leaves transpire a lot of water and this takes energy out of the atmosphere. And the temperature under the trees on a hot day is significantly cooler. Sycamore trunks can arch and bend dramatically. Platanus racemosa trunks can even touch the ground and go back up as demonstrated by the locally famous tree at Libby Bowl in Ojai. Platanus racemosa is native to stream banks throughout the lower elevations of California and many of the Western States. Platanus racemosa prefers to have its feet near water and performs well in a lawn. The Sycamore has a couple of traits that make it difficult in a residential landscape. The first is the size. Most yards are not large enough to handle a 60 foot Sycamore or even more. The second is related, the Sycamore will have a lot of leaves, and these seem to fall off all of the time. Neat freaks beware. The roots will lift sidewalks and warp foundations, so the California Sycamore should be planted away from structures. A lot of people are allergic to the pollen, to the hairs on the leaves, and the fibers on the flowers. While Platanus racemosa may survive a hard pruning they can never regain the grace of an open tree. There is a native fungal disease, anthracnose. This will make disfigure many of the leaves each year. The most damaged leaves will fall in the early Summer. I have never seen this to be fatal to the Sycamore trees, just messy in the yard. Since it is a native disease you may be able to fix your tree for a little while by spraying but it will come back shortly when the conditions are right again. And fungicides are one of the more toxic pesticides around. The broad leafed mistletoe is commonly brought to the trees by the birds. This is a great food source for bluebirds, phainopepla's, lawrence's goldfinch, the great purple hairstreak butterfly. I love to have wildlife in my gardens. The mistletoe will do far less damage to the tree than the eradication process. And I like the added wildlife in the garden. The lesser goldfinches will swarm the tree as the seeds ripen. The Sycamore tree is a magnet for wildlife activity.

Platanus racemosa, Sycamore

White bark and radiating branchs looking up - Platanus racemosa - Sycamore. High resolution photos are part of our garden image collection.

California Native Trees that reliably produce Colorful Fall Foliage in our dry climate:
Acer macrophyllum
Acer negundo californicum
Cornus nuttallii
Fraxinus dipetala
Juglans californica
Platanus racemosa
Populus fremontii
Quercus douglassii
Quercus garryana
Quercus kelloggii
Quercus lobata
Salix lasiolepis