Arizona Sycamore

Platanus wrightii

Arizona Sycamore, Platanus wrightii, © by Michael J. Plagens

Every sycamore presents a unique visual history of it's survival battles: Twisted and gnarled branches; dead limbs; hollowed trunks and numerous nest hole cavities. The smooth white bark gives it a very stately look.

View of leaf petiole and the fused stipules that encircle the stem. Arizona Sycamore, Platanus wrightii, © by Michael J. Plagens

The stipules might hinder movement of herbivorous insects that are crawling up and down the stems. Caterpillars for instance would have to climb over the obstruction temporarily disrupting their usual camouflage tactics and thus vulnerable to predation.

Arizona Sycamore Leaf TREE: Grand tree reaching very large proportions. Arizona champion is 21 m tall and has a crown spread of 22 m.

LEAVES: Leaves are hand-shaped and can be up to 30 cm across. Young leaves are velvety, esp. beneath. The base of the petiole is noticeably enlarged at its attachment to the stem and there is leafy cup encircling the stem formed from the fused stipules (photo at left).

RANGE: Strictly riparian. Found along permanent creeks mostly above 750 m elevation in Arizona and Sonoran, Mexico. This tree is probably conspecific (same species) with sycamores in California.

FLOWERS/FRUIT: Petal-less flowers and achenes are small and are borne on a densely packed spherical structure about 3 cm in diameter. These clusters are arranged into pendant chains of two, three or more.
spherical clusters of achene-fruits
TRUNK: Whitish bark peels off in patches giving the trunk a distinctive, light-colored, mottled appearance. Prone to developing large holes from injuries and broken-off branches thus providing nest spots for many animals and birds.

Sycamore Tree Hopper

Tree Hopper on Arizona Sycamore

Tree hoppers focus their feeding activity on fresh, new growth. They draw sap using long, penetrating, needle-like mouthparts. Ants guarding them are almost always present.

Platanaceae -- Sycamore Family

More Information:

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 11 July 2010,
updated 5 Feb. 2015