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Platanus occidentalis
Platanaceae (plane trees)

A large tree with a massive trunk, a broad, open, irregular crown and large, crooked, spreading, white branches.

Leaves alternate, simple, 4–8 inches long and broad or larger; with 3–5 broad, shallow lobes with coarse teeth, each lobe tip pointed; upper surface bright green; lower surface whitish, hairy; leaf stalk hairy, with a leafy appendage at the base.

Bark smooth, greenish on young trunks, turning reddish-brown to gray; bark sheds in thin plates to reveal the distinctive white new bark.

Twigs slender, shiny, zigzag; buds enclosed by the base of the leaf stalk.

Flowers April–June; male and female flowers on the same tree with numerous flowers in globe-shaped clusters. Male flower cluster red or yellow, about 3/8 inch in diameter; female flower cluster red, about 1/2 inch in diameter.

Fruits September–October, persist through winter, solitary, rounded, dry, 1-1½ inches wide, drooping on a stalk 3–6 inches long; ball composed of many closely packed, long, narrow fruits.

Height: to 120 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in valleys either on gravel bars or in low or wet rich bottomland. An integral part of our streamside habitats. It attains the largest size of any deciduous tree in the United States and is often planted in urban areas as an ornamental for its fast growth, impressive stature and unusual bark. It is a pioneer species in old fields.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide; often planted in yards, parks and streetscapes.
Also called American plane tree and buttonwood.
Human connections: 
In addition to its popularity as a large tree for landscaping, sycamore is also used for its wood, which becomes crates, interior finishing and furniture. Difficult to split, it is used for butcher blocks and buttons, hence the common name “buttonwood.”
Ecosystem connections: 
The seeds are an important late winter food source for finches and were once a favorite food of the now extinct Carolina parakeet. Trunk cavities provide shelter for nesting swifts and swallows and for mammals. In Missouri, great blue herons nearly always nest in sycamores.
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