The sycamore thrives in hardiness zones 4 through 9. It does best in rich soil near bodies of water but is drought tolerant. It’s also capable of amazing yearly growth. Some botanists claim that a well-cared for tree can grow 6 feet in a year. Some professionals recommend that the tree be pruned to keep it at no more than 25 feet high. The tree, which is quite tough, can tolerate hard pruning. It also benefits from some fertilizer given in the fall.
In summer, the sycamore’s branches are dense with 4 to 9 inch long leaves. They are nearly heart shaped, with three to five lobes, light green above and pale below. The leafstalk has a hollow base that hides the winter bud. The fruits are the familiar button balls, or conkers. They are made up of dry, hairy seeds called achenes. These achenes are light enough to float on both wind and water.
The sycamore is also singular in that its bark peels off it large brown sheets, revealing the fresh, cream-colored bark that gives the tree an attractive, mottled appearance. This mottling really stands out during the winter after the leaves fall.
The flowers arrive in April, with yellow male flowers and red female flowers. They grow on the same tree, with the large female flowers at the tip of a branch and the smaller males farther back on old wood.