Graves, Arthur H. Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven, Connecticut.
Davis, Kenneth P. School of Forestry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Last reviewed:January 2020
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Platanus occidentalis, a member of the plane tree family. Platanus occidentalis is most often known as American sycamore, but other names include American plane tree, buttonball, and buttonwood. It ranges from southern Maine to Nebraska and south into Texas and northern Florida. Ordinarily, American sycamore is 60–120 ft (18–37 m) in height and has a trunk that is 2–5 ft (0.6–1.5 m) in diameter. Individuals that are 140 ft (43 m) in height and 14 ft (4.3 m) in diameter have been recorded. American sycamore has the most massive trunk of any American hardwood. Some of the characteristic features are the white patches that are exposed when outer layers of the bark slough off; the simple, large, lobed leaves (see illustration), whose stalks completely cover the conical winter buds; and the spherical fruit heads that are always borne singly in the American species and persist throughout the winter. The tough, coarse-grained wood is difficult to work but is useful for butcher blocks, saddle trees, vehicles, tobacco and cigar boxes, crates, and slack cooperage (kegs and barrels). The Janka hardness for American sycamore is 770 lb-force (349 kg-force); its density is 34 lb/ft3 (545 kg/m3). The trees are usually scattered through the forest in moist soil.
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