Acer pseudoplatanus

Acer pseudoplatanus

Acer pseudoplatanus (Sycamore or Sycamore Maple to distinguish it from other plants called sycamore) is a species of maple native to central Europe and southwestern Asia, from France east to Poland, and south in mountains to northern Spain, northern Turkey, and the Caucasus.

Description

It is a large deciduous tree that reaches 20–35 m tall at maturity, with a broad, domed crown. On young trees, the bark is smooth and grey but becomes rougher with age and breaks up in scales, exposing the pale-brown-to-pinkish inner bark. The leaves are opposite, 10-25 cm long and broad with a 5-15 cm petiole, palmately-veined with five lobes with toothed edges, and dark green in colour; some cultivars have purple-tinged or yellowish leaves. The monoecious yellow-green flowers are produced in spring on 10-20 cm pendulous racemes, with 20-50 flowers on each stalk. The 5-10 mm diameter seeds are paired in samaras, each seed with a 20-40 mm long wing to catch the wind and rotate when they fall; this helps them to spread further from the parent tree. The seeds are mature in autumn about 6 months after pollination.

A number of species of Lepidoptera use the leaves as a food source; see Lepidoptera that feed on maples.

The name "sycamore" originally belongs to the fig species Ficus sycomorus native to southwest Asia (this is the sycamore or sycomore referred to in the Bible), and was later applied to this species (and others; see also Platanus) by reason of the superficial similarity in leaf shape.

Cultivation and uses

It is noted for its tolerance of wind, urban pollution and salt spray, which makes it a popular tree for planting in cities, along roads treated with salt in winter, and in coastal localities. It is cultivated and widely naturalised north of its native range in northern Europe, notably in the British Isles and Scandinavia north to Tromsø, Norway (can ripen seeds north to Vesterålen); Reykjavík, Iceland; and Torshavn on the Faroe Islands. It now occurs throughout the British Isles, having been introduced in the 17th century

In North America, escapes from cultivation are most common in New England, New York City and the Pacific Northwest. It is planted in many temperate parts of the Southern Hemisphere, most commonly in New Zealand and on the Falkland Islands. It is considered an environmental weed in some parts of Australia (Yarra Ranges, Victoria).

The popular cultivar 'Brilliantissimum' is notable for the bright salmon-pink colour of the young foliage.

It is planted for timber production; the wood is white with a silky lustre, and hard-wearing, used for musical instrument making, furniture, wood flooring and parquetry. Occasional trees produce wood with a wavy grain, greatly increasing the value for decorative veneers. It is a traditional wood for use in making the backs, necks and scrolls of violins.

The flowers produce abundant nectar, which makes a fragrant, delicately flavoured and pale-coloured honey.

References

Gallery: Stages in opening leaf buds

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