Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Sycamore
Acer pseudoplatanus
Aceraceae

The trees are fast-growing and make a good windbreak for exposed and maritime areas[11, 200]. They are often used in shelterbelt plantings[200]. This species usually self-sows freely and is often the first tree to invade disused farmland, cleared woodland etc. Its ability to tolerate difficult environments make it a good pioneer species for re-establishing woodlands. When grown in Britain it is usually gradually displaced over a period of 200 years or more by native species until it becomes just a minor component of the woodland[K].

The leaves are packed around apples, rootcrops etc to help preserve them[18, 20].

Wood – very hard, heavy, elastic, easy to work, fairly resistant to insects. Used for carving, small domestic items, veneer etc[4, 13, 46, 171]. It is a good fuel and also makes a good charcoal that can be used as a fuel[115].

  • Medicinal Use

    The bark has mild astringent properties and has been used to make a wash for skin problems and an eyewash for sore eyes[21].

    The inner bark of the tree, containing the sweet sap, can be used as a dressing for wounds[21].

  • Edible Use

    The sap contains sugar and can be used as a drink or be concentrated into a syrup by boiling off the water[183]. The syrup is used as a sweetener on many foods. It can be harvested in late winter but is not produced in economic quantities[2, 4, 13, 105]. About 25 grams of sugar is obtained from a litre of the sap[4]. The sap can also be used to make a wine[183]. The flow is best on warm sunny days following a frost. The best sap production comes from cold-winter areas with continental climates.

    The keys of the developing seeds have a sweet exudation on them and this is often sucked by children[183].

    The leaves can be wrapped round food such as buns when baking them and they impart a sweet flavour[66].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, it usually germinates in the following spring. Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours and then stratify for 2 – 4 months at 1 – 8¡c. It can be slow to germinate. Seed should not be dried below 35% moisture[98]. The seed can be harvested ‘green’ (when it has fully developed but before it has dried and produced any germination inhibitors) and sown immediately. It should germinate in late winter. If the seed is harvested too soon it will produce very weak plants or no plants at all[80, 113]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on until they are 20cm or more tall before planting them out in their permanent positions. Layering, which takes about 12 months, is successful with most species in this genus. Cuttings of young shoots in June or July. The cuttings should have 2 – 3 pairs of leaves, plus one pair of buds at the base. Remove a very thin slice of bark at the base of the cutting, rooting is improved if a rooting hormone is used. The rooted cuttings must show new growth during the summer before being potted up otherwise they are unlikely to survive the winter. Cultivars can be budded onto rootstocks of the species. Any grafting is best carried out in September rather than February.
Of easy cultivation, it prefers a good moist well-drained soil and a sunny position[11, 17], but tolerates most conditions including poor soils and some shade[13, 17, 200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Chlorosis can sometimes develop as a result of iron deficiency when the plants are grown in alkaline soils, but in general maples are not fussy as to soil pH. Dislikes wet soils[115]. Grows better in the cooler areas of the country[11]. Very wind-resistant, tolerating maritime exposure though it is often wind and salt pruned in very exposed areas[4, 11, 17]. A fairly aggressive tree, it self-sows freely and inhibits the growth of nearby plants[18, 20]. It is often one of the first trees to colonize open land. It is fast growing and establishes rapidly. It can supplant native trees, at least in the short-term, though recent evidence suggests that in the long term it does not usually become the dominant tree in British woodlands and it is often recommended for planting in broad-leaved woods by the Forestry Commission, especially in windy areas[K]. Plants are subject to sooty bark disease – this is not fatal and occurs most often in years that follow hot summers[11]. There are many named forms that have been selected for their ornamental value[200]. Trees take 25 years to come into bearing from seed[98].
Europe. Extensively naturalized in Britain[17].

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.