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Platanus occidentalis – Wikipedia

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**Description and Characteristics**:
– Platanus occidentalis has mottled bark that flakes off in large irregular masses, leaving a gray, greenish-white, and brown surface.
– It can grow up to 30 to 40m (98 to 131ft) high and 1.5 to 2m (4.9 to 6.6ft) in diameter.
– The bark sheds in large, brittle pieces due to its rigidity, accommodating the growth of the tree.
– Leaves are alternate, palmately nerved, broadly ovate, and turn brown in autumn before falling.
– Flowers are monoecious, borne in dense heads, with staminate and pistillate heads on separate peduncles.

**Distribution and Habitat**:
– Platanus occidentalis is native to areas from Iowa to Ontario and New Hampshire in the north, Nebraska in the west, and south to Texas and Florida.
– It is also found in Mexico and the southwestern U.S., sometimes grown for timber and naturalized in areas beyond its native range.
– The tree thrives in riparian and wetland areas, being well adapted to life in Argentina and Australia.
– American sycamore thrives in wet environments provided by rivers, streams, or groundwater, though it cannot survive flooding for more than two weeks.
– The American sycamore is widespread across Australia, especially in the cooler southern states.

**Ecology and Role in Ecosystem**:
– American sycamore is a fast-growing hardwood tree species that reproduces young and produces wind-distributed seeds.
– It plays a key role in the structure of wet bottomland habitats, creating nesting sites for various animals due to the quick decay of its heartwood.
– Hollow cavities in sycamore trees are used as nesting sites by animals like bats, wood ducks, owls, and other cavity-nesting birds.
– The dominance of sycamore in forests varies based on growth conditions, often a pioneer species but can persist as a climax species in wet sites.

**Uses and Historical Significance**:
Wood of Platanus occidentalis is used for various purposes like butcher blocks, boxes, crates, furniture, siding, and musical instruments.
– Investigations into its use as a biomass crop have been conducted.
– The tree bark has been traditionally used by Native Americans to make dishes for gathering whortleberries.
– The Buttonwood Agreement, which formed the New York Stock Exchange, was signed under a buttonwood (sycamore) tree in 1792.

**Pests, Diseases, and Cultural References**:
– The American sycamore is a favored food plant of the sycamore leaf beetle.
– Severe infections of anthracnose can defoliate large areas of sycamore trees during spring.
– The sycamore tree played a significant role in historical events like the signing of the Buttonwood Agreement.
– The resistant London plane is often preferred over the American sycamore in landscaping due to disease susceptibility.

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