The Sycamore Tree is Famous for its Falling Helicopter Seeds

Acer pseudoplatanus is a broadleaf tree that is large and deciduous reaching 35 metres and can often have the most beautiful domed crown!   

Sycamore maples – Acers – have smooth, grey bark that gets gradually rougher and much coarser; it breaks up into scales before peeling off and leaves a paler coloured, inner bark underneath.   

Maple leaves have five rounded, serrated lobes that are a rusty-reddish colour. Native to Asia and first introduced as a shade tree in the UK because of the spreading canopy, the sycamore maple provides respite from the sun in many parks and gardens!

Acer, as a species however, is non-native but naturalized, thus, the trees have a long history in Europe. Managing to tolerate the hazards of both urban and coastal environmental conditions, the timber of the sycamore is as strong as that of an oak. 

Not as long lasting as oak wood, maple is used for making toys for three main reasons: it is easily dyed, it lacks any sticky weeping resin and it is very manageable for the “chippie” in the workshop.   

Typically, the leaves of the sycamore tree are begin a dark green and have five lobes with toothed edges. The leathery texture of the leaf with its thick veins protruding on the underside are unmistakable, though the black spots often seen on the surface of the leaves are caused by a fungus (rhytisma acerinum) which luckily doesn’t affect the long-term health of the tree; it is just cosmetic and can be controlled with sanitation methods. 

Noted for its tolerance of wind as well as urban pollution including salt spray, the sycamore species is a popular tree for planting in towns and cities, especially along roads that are treated with de-icing salt in the winter or in coastal localities. 

Mainly planted for timber production and manufacture, the wood of the sycamore is white with a silky lustre and very hard-wearing that can be used for a great many things: sycamore wood is popular for making musical instruments, making furniture, for wood flooring and parquetry. 

Occasionally, some trees produce wood with a wavy grain that greatly increases its value when used for decorative veneers and is traditionally the wood of the back, neck and scroll of a violin.

The winged seeds of the sycamore – commonly known as helicopters – have been used by children for centuries to play games and are quite fun to watch falling to the ground!