Brought into England from France in the Middle Ages, the sycamore is a robust tree that can tolerate cold weather, exposure, sea spray and air pollution - making it suitable for all regions of the country. It was often planted to shelter and shade farm houses and today its timber is valued for furniture making and fine joinery.
Sycamore facts and figures
- with a life span of a 400 years, sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) can grow to 35m.
- sycamore is very tolerant of sea spray and is often planted near the coast.
- it is a broad tree with dense foliage.
- sycamore is native to mountainous areas of central and Eastern Europe.
Sycamore identification tips
Heading out into the forest? Here are some top things to look for when trying to spot a sycamore:
- bark: smooth, grey bark develops rough, flat surface plates that fall away to reveal orange-brown bark below.
- leaves: often have 'tar' spots caused by a fungus called Rhytisma acerinum.
- seeds: winged seeds, sets in pairs, usually fall together and spin around like helicopter blades.
How sycamore is used
As it does not stain or taint food, and stays smooth after scrubbing, sycamore was popular for kitchen surfaces and utensils. Its ability not to stain cloth meant it was also ideal for textile rollers.
Sycamore timber is still in demand with finely grained pieces highly valued for making violins and for veneers. It is also used to make traditional love spoons in Wales.
Sycamore and future forestry
Sycamore can provide some of the most valuable timber in the UK, but is very prone to damage from grey squirrels that greatly reduces its value.
It may however be useful to replace the millions of ash we're losing to ash dieback, as the two grow in similar conditions and sycamore can be a good host for many types of insect that thrive on ash.
The warming climate may favour sycamore in some areas, though it can suffer in drought so may become vulnerable in eastern areas of the country.