Sycamore tree identification

The Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus, native to central and southern Europe, was possibly introduced to Britain in the 16th century but may have been present hundreds of years before that. It now grows naturally and seeds freely everywhere. It is a member of the Maple family and has the typical 5-lobed leaf and winged fruit. It can be confused with the Field Maple and the Norway Maple but the leaves, flowers and the winged fruit are different. To see characteristics of other common Maples click HERE 

Sycamore tree identification – 5-lobed, toothed, alternate, leaves, hanging tail of flowers in May and winged fruits in October. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Sycamore mature tree

A mature Sycamore in a churchyard

Sycamore leaf

The leaf has 5 tooth-edged lobes. In comparison, the Field Maple leaves have no teeth and the Norway Maples leaves have very few.

Sycamore leaf

All 5 veins come together at the base of the leaf. This is characteristic of all Maples but different from the Wild Service.

Sycamore bark

The bark of older trees is cracked into plates.

Sycamore flowers

Individual Sycamore flowers are clustered on short branches along a central stalk which hangs down like a tail. This type of flower cluster is called a panicle by botanists. All the flowers look the same but in fact some are male and some female. female flowers are at the top, male flowers in the centre and sterile flowers at the bottom.

Sycamore fruit

In this close-up, the female flowers (at the top) have just started to produce winged fruit. Photo in May.

Sycamore samara

Botanists classify the winged fruit as a ‘samara’. The wings are at an angle in the Sycamore, similar to the Norway Maple but different from the Field Maple which has flat wings. A samara is sometimes called a ‘key’.

Sycamore fruits

Fruits hang down in long drooping clusters in October. These clusters are different from the compact clusters of the Norway Maple.