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Where Do Sycamore Trees Grow?

Sycamore trees are among the largest types of deciduous trees in the United States. These majestic beauties are known for their ability to adapt to many climates and their unique bark, which peels to reveal multicolored patches. In this article, we’ll discuss where you can find them and learn a little about their growing habits. 

Where Are Sycamore Trees Found?

where are sycamore trees found

There are several different species of Sycamore trees. While they all share some common characteristics, they each have unique qualities – including where they are grown. 

Although their beauty is unparalleled and they can adapt to harsh conditions, you won’t find many in backyards and densely populated areas. They are too big for most residential properties, produce a lot of twig and leaf litter, and have large, aggressive roots. 

Not counting the several modern hybrid varieties which have been introduced in recent years, only a handful of sycamore species exist in the wild. Here are the most common types and their locations (growing zones refer to USDA’s plant hardiness zone map:

American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

American sycamores are cold-hardy and can survive in zones 4-9. You can find them in most of the eastern United States, save for Minnesota and most parts of Wisconsin. American sycamore trees grow particularly well along streams and rivers. 

California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa)

Also known as the western sycamore, these warmer weather sycamores can be found anywhere from central California down to Mexico in zones 7 – 10. California sycamore trees are native along the streams of valleys, foothills, and mountains. 

English Sycamore (Platanus x acerifolia)

Native to Eurasia, the English Sycamore is a hybrid between the American and Oriental sycamore varieties. They are commonly found as a street tree throughout Europe, in the United States, as well as along streams and rivers. This tree is hardy in zones 4-8. 

Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii)

Since this species looks similar to the California sycamore, some botanists consider the Arizona sycamore to be a subspecies. It can be grown in zones 7-11 and can be found from south and central Arizona to western New Mexico and northern Mexico. It’s common to see Arizona sycamores along streams as well as in riparian canyons. 

Mexican Sycamore (Platanus mexicana)

Mexican sycamore trees are native to northeastern and central Mexico and are also common in parts of Texas and Florida. Despite their warm native habitat, they can adapt to zones 4-9. They also adapt to many different environments, including rivers, streams, and upland plains. 

How Tall Do Sycamore Trees Grow?

how tall do sycamore trees grow

The average height of any tree, including sycamores,  depends on many different factors. It’s common to see height averages that vary as much as 60+ feet for a single species of trees.

Some of the major factors that affect the maximum height of trees include:

Habitat

Growth can be hindered if there are certain barriers present in a tree’s habitat. For example, if a tree is planted or sprouts naturally in an area where root growth is blocked by a structure, it may not grow as tall as it would if the roots were able to stretch out. 

Climate 

While a tree might survive certain climate conditions, it may not thrive and grow to its full potential. A tree living within the minimum or maximum growth temperature may not grow to be as large as a tree in the middle of that range, for instance. The amount of sunlight available also has a significant impact on the growth potential for trees. 

Disease 

Trees that are affected by disease and/or pests may experience stunted growth and inadequate nutrient uptake as a result. 

Bearing in mind all the factors in play, here are the average height ranges for common sycamore varieties:

  • American sycamore: 70-100 feet
  • California sycamore: 40-100 feet
  • English sycamore: 40-100 feet
  • Arizona sycamore: Up to 80 feet tall 

How Fast Do Sycamore Trees Grow?

Sycamore trees are known for their vigorous growth. However, much like their height, the growth rate for sycamores largely depends on growing conditions. 

If you’ve purchased trees from a nursery or garden center, there’s a good chance that you weren’t given a definitive answer about growth speed. It’s difficult to predict how fast a tree will grow without knowing how much sunlight it will receive, watering habits, type of soil, and the topography of the area. 

With optimal growing conditions, most sycamore species can grow anywhere from 2-6 feet per year.  

Sycamore trees are an integral part of our ecosystem, providing shade, shelter, and sustenance for wildlife. While their size excludes a lot of property owners from growing them, sycamores are wonderful additions if you have the space, especially in a rural area.

For more information about the most common species in the US, the American sycamore, check out this video from Kentucky’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources:

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