Foliage Friday: The Sycamore Tree

I had heard of a sycamore tree (in songs or stories), but I didn’t really know what it was until Nate pointed them out to me when he was visiting. He said he sees a lot of them on the East Coast.

Well, as it turns out, he hasn’t seen these trees before. The trees on the East Coast are Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore), whereas the California sycamore is a different species: Platanus racemosa. Sycamores are also known as “Plane trees,” and actually plane tree might be a better name for them than sycamores. They are only called sycamores because they resemble the European sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus, which is also not really a sycamore. The European sycamore got its name from the original sycamore, Ficus sycomorus. Oy vey. Ficus sycomorus is a type of fig tree. The word sycomorus comes from sukon, which means fig, and moron, which means mulberry.

Whatever you want to call them, the California version of this tree is a staple around Palo Alto. Nearly every block has at least one. The leaves and the bark are very distinctive. They have characteristic maple-like leaves and light-colored gray-to-white peeling bark.

The genus name Platanus comes from the root platys, which means broad – as in the leaf is broad. Some of the streets in Palo Alto are lined with these trees and they form a very nice canopy.

The leaves supposedly turn yellow in the fall, but it is still very much summer here in Palo Alto, so I cannot corroborate the accuracy of that statement.

Now that Nate pointed them out to me, I see them everywhere. There are a bunch planted near the CalTrain stop. Here are some newly planted California sycamores that I noticed a the VA last week.

So, there you have it! The sycamore tree!

uh…I mean…the plane tree!

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