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California sycamore (Platanus racemosa)
California sycamore (Platanus racemosa)

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Zones 4-24
Full Sun
Regular Water

Platanus racemosa

California Sycamore
Deciduous, Trees


All these trees are large, with heavy trunk (or trunks) and sculptural branch pattern. Older bark sheds in patches to reveal pale, smooth new bark beneath. Big, rough-surfaced leaves (to 10 in. across) have three to five lobes, resemble maple (Acer) leaves. Fall foliage color is yellowish to brown, not striking. Ball-shaped brown seed clusters, usually on threadlike stalks, hang on the bare branches through winter; these are prized for winter arrangements. Best in rich, deep, moist, well-drained soil. All are subject to anthracnose, which causes early leaf drop and twig dieback. Rake up and dispose of dead leaves, since fungus spores can overwinter on them. Chlorosis may be a problem in the desert.

Platanus racemosa

Robust native of California foothills and Coast Ranges; grows near streams in the wild. Fast rate of growth to 30 to 80 ft. tall and 20 to 50 ft. wide, frequently with multiple or leaning trunks. Smooth branches are often gracefully twisted and contorted. Attractive, patchy bark in brown, gray, white. Deeply lobed leaves turn dusty brown early in autumn; in mild coastal climates, they hang on until new growth starts. In winter, virtually stemless seed balls are carried three to seven along a single stalk. Tolerates much heat and wind. With careful pruning, can be trained into picturesque multitrunked clump. For large informal or wild garden.

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