Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Impact Summary
- Impact: Biodiversity
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Wood Products
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Acer pseudoplatanus L.
Preferred Common Name
Other Scientific Names
- Acer montanum Garsault
- Acer opulifolium Thuillier
- Acer platanophyllum St. Lager ex Keegan
- Acer procerum Salisb.
- Acer pseudoplatanus f. corstorphinense Schwer.
- Acer pseudoplatanus var. macrocarpum Spach
- Acer pseudoplatanus var. microcarpum Spach
- Acer pseudoplatanus var. purpurascens Van Houtte
- Acer pseudoplatanus var. tomentosum Tausch
- Acer pseudoplatanus var. villosum (C. Presl & J. Presl) Parl.
- Acer ramosum Schwerin
- Acer sericeum Schwerin
International Common Names
- English: common sycamore; great maple; Scottish maple; sycamore maple
- Spanish: sicomoro
- French: érable blanc; érable de montagne; érable sycomore; faux sycomore; grand érable; sycomore
- Portuguese: platano-bastardo
Local Common Names
- Germany: Bergahorn; Echter Bergahorn; Waldahorn; Weissahorn
- Italy: acero di monte; acero montano
- Netherlands: gewone Esdoorn
- Sweden: tysk loenn
- ACRPP (Acer pseudoplatanus)
- ACRRA (Acer ramosum)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Sapindales
- Family: Aceraceae
- Genus: Acer
- Species: Acer pseudoplatanus
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
DescriptionTop of page
A. pseudoplatanus is a large tree with a straight trunk and erect branches forming a spreading, often irregular crown commonly broader than tall, with massive low branches. On more suitable sites the crown may be very tall and less broad. Average height when mature is 30-35 m, although it may exceed 40 m; average dbh at maturity is 60-80 cm, although it may exceed 150 cm. The stem is straight and cylindrical. The root system is much-branched, providing stability for the tree in high winds, and Kostler et al. (1968) found that deep roots penetrated to approximately 1.4 m depth, whilst the radial extent exceeded 9 m. Bark is grey, smooth in young trees; mature boles having pale orange-brown or pinkish-orange bark, broken into long scales which come away. Shoots are greenish-grey-brown, striated lengthwise with pale lenticels. Buds 8-10 mm, ovoid, with a few green scales, margin reddish, open with basal scales red and decurved. Leaves are simple, opposite, deciduous, with five unequally toothed pointed lobes at acute angles, nerves often pubescent, bases cordate, margins denticulate. They are dark green on top and glaucescent on the underside in young trees but yellowish on pink petioles in old trees. There is rarely any worthwhile colour in the autumn, but foliage may occasionally turn bright yellow. The leaves vary greatly in size and depth of lobe with tree age and shoot vigour. They are always borne on a long petiole, which does not emit milky sap when broken. Leaves open early, especially in shade, and lammas growth in July may emerge bright pink. Flowers are in terminal, hanging racemes 6-12 cm long, open mid-April and attracting hordes of bees. Each flower is monoecious, 4-6 mm pale green or yellowish, thin looking as petals are very short; stamens whitish, anthers bright yellow. Flowering occurs when the leaves are newly expanded. Fruits are di-samaras 5 cm long with wings set in a 'V' at about 90°; in clusters on short green stalks and appear abundantly when the tree is at least 20 years old.
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
The native distribution of A. pseudoplatanus is wide, encompassing most of central and southern Europe between 51°N and 35°N. Native range areas include Germany (Harz Mountains), Russia (Crimea and Caucasus), Spain (Pyrenees), southern and central France, the Swiss Alps, Italy, Bosnia, northern Greece and the Carpathian mountains in Poland, Slovakia and Romania. It is not native to the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, northwest France, northern Germany and Scandinavia. All specimens of A. pseudoplatanus recorded from eastern Anatolia, Turkey have proved to be A. heldreichii subsp. trautvetteri. An incorrect record for Tanzania in a previous edition has been deleted.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 29 Apr 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Planted||Reference||Notes|
|India||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Binggeli (1999)|
|Austria||Present||Native||Original citation: Binggeli (1999)|
|Belgium||Present||Introduced||Planted||Original citation: Binggeli (1999)|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Present||Native|
|France||Present||Native||Original citation: Binggeli (1999)|
|Germany||Present||Native||Original citation: Binggeli (1999)|
|Ireland||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Planted||Original citation: Cronk and Fuller (1995)|
|Italy||Present||Native||Original citation: Binggeli (1999)|
|-Madeira||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Planted||Original citation: Cronk and Fuller (1995)|
|Russia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Russian Far East||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|Serbia and Montenegro||Present||Native|
|United Kingdom||Present, Widespread||Introduced|
|-Channel Islands||Present||Introduced||Planted||Original citation: Binggeli (1999)|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Delaware||Present||Introduced||Planted||Original citation: McAvoy (2001)|
|-Pennsylvania||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||Invasive|
|Australia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Original citation: Weber (2003)|
|Argentina||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Binggeli (1999)|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
A. pseudoplatanus is naturalized in the UK (Dierschke, 1985), and it may have been introduced to England by the Romans, but is more likely to have been introduced to Scotland some time before 1600. Cronk and Fuller (1995) suggest introduction to the UK in the Tudor era around the 1500s. More widespread planting occurred in the 1700s and the earliest reports of the species naturalizing in the UK date from the mid 1800s (Binggeli, 1999). A. pseudoplatanus was probably introduced to Norway before 1750 as an ornamental tree and is now frequent and locally common, particularly in western Norway where it is naturalized in many vegetation types (Fremstad and Elven, 1996). Recent spread observed in the UK and Norway may be associated with changes in land use, especially the abandonment of pastures. Kowarik (1995) postulates that a recent expansion in the Brandenburg area of Germany may have been promoted by increased levels of atmospheric nitrogen deposition. Andersen (1995) reports that it is naturalized in semi-natural habitats in Denmark, but is still sold in nurseries.
In several countries of Europe and North America, many cultivars are planted as ornamentals and street or roadside trees. It is widely planted in the USA and has become invasive at least in Connecticut and Pennsylvania (DCNR, 2001; Anon., 2004) whereas Mehrhoff et al. (2003) classify it as potentially invasive in Connecticut upland habitats. In Rhode Island it is not yet reported to be invasive, but because of its behaviour in adjoining states it is one of a number of species for which further research and monitoring is thought appropriate (Rhode Island Invasive Species Council, 2001). In Canada, it appears on a list of invasive exotic species for southern Ontario, where it is classed as 'highly invasive' and able to dominate the forest canopy (Urban Forest Associates Inc., 2002). A. pseudoplatanus was introduced to New Zealand in 1880, the potential invasiveness of this species was recognized by the late 1950s and it is now classed as invasive (Bingelli, 1999), where it is regarded by some authorities as a serious threat to native forests which should be removed (e.g. Davis and Meurk, 2000).
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
HabitatTop of page
A. pseudoplatanus usually forms a natural component of birch (Betula sp.) and fir (Abies sp.) forests. Binggeli (1999) compiled an extensive review of the world distribution of this species including detailed accounts of its associations within and outside its native range. In its native central European range, Binggeli (1999) reports that the distribution of A. pseudoplatanus is closely allied to that of beech (Fagus sylvatica) and that it occurs as minor component of mature beech, fir and spruce (Picea abies) forests. It is also found in wet lowland and riparian communities in association with alder (Alnus), ash (Fraxinus) and elm (Ulmus) (Binggeli, 1999). Binggeli reports that it has a low competitive ability in comparison with beech but is able to become a dominant species on unstable strata such as scree slopes.
Cronk and Fuller (1995) report that this species invades semi-natural woodlands and nutrient-rich wasteland. Where the species occurs outside its native range and has naturalized or become invasive, namely in the UK, Ireland, Chile and New Zealand, habitats include river corridors, planted forest, roadsides, abandoned farmland, urban wasteland, railway lines, gardens, hedgerows, native and semi-natural woodland, high country tussock grassland especially in New Zealand, also laurel forest in Madeira, Portugal (Binggeli, 1999).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Studies cited by Binggeli (1999) describe this species as a weed in Christmas tree (Picea abies) plantations in Denmark and commercial beech (Fagus sylvatica) plantations in Sweden.
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
A. pseudoplatanus ecotypes have been identified which follow an altitudinal range (Mayer, 1977). Results of the comparison between six UK and four other European provenances in height and root-collar diameter show that of the four continental European provenances, two from Denmark and Germany performed better than the UK provenances (Cundall et al., 1998). Variability of progeny characteristics has been studied by Bojovic (1991) and Weiser (1996). In vitro growth of A. pseudoplatanus callus on metal-enriched media has allowed the identification of some lines particularly adapted to metal stress (Watmough and Dickinson, 1995). Isoenzyme analysis of A. pseudoplatanus has been used for clonal identification (Konnert, 1992). Most of the subspecies and varieties described in the literature should be treated as forms, but many of them may only deserve cultivar status (van-Gelderen et al., 1994). Several nurseries and research stations have selected or developed cultivars for landscaping. In cultivation, hybrids between A. heldreichii subsp. tautvetteri and A. pseudoplatanus frequently occur (van-Gelderen et al., 1994). A number of hybrid trees can be found in various arboreta, sometimes labelled correctly as A. x pseudo-heldreichii Fukarek & Celjo.
Physiology and Phenology
A. pseudoplatanus is a shade tolerant species that can live for up to 500 years (Binggeli, 1999). It is able to produce seed within the first few years of growth and although seedling production is prolific there is high mortality of self-sown plants within the first year and thus in describing the spread of this species it is important to distinguish between seedlings and saplings older than one year (Binggeli, 1999).
Each flower is monoecious. A. pseudoplatanus is generally outbreeding and can produce in the order of 10,000 wind-dispersed seeds each year (Cronk and Fuller, 1995).
A. pseudoplatanus is found over a wide range of latitudes, from the Peloritani Mountains in Sicily to the Carpathian Mountains in Poland. Best growth occurs where mean annual rainfall exceeds 1200 mm and mean annual temperature is about 12-13°C. However, it is very resistant to cold, tolarating absolute minima of -30°C, probably due to the late flushing which protects it from early and late frosts. Both winter and bimodal rainfall regimes are tolerated, with preferred mean annual rainfall in the range 600-1600 mm, but only short dry seasons of less that 3 months are tolerated.
A. pseudoplatanus can grow on a wide variety of soils, but best growth is found on moist fertile soils over limestone or chalk. The only soil it will not tolerate is pure clay. The pH level of the soil ranges from 5 to 8. More often found in places rich in available nitrogen, though it can survive infertile and saline soils and on sites contaminated with heavy metals. The altitudinal range is generally between 500 and 1900 m.
Binggeli (1999) reports that the distribution of A. pseudoplatanus is closely allied to that of Fagus sylvatica, and that it occurs as minor component of mature Fagus, Abies and Picea forests. It is also found in wet lowland and riparian communities in association with Alnus, Fraxinus and Ulmus (Binggeli, 1999).
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||-30|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||5||14|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||12||24|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||-10||8|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||2||3||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||600||1600||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Special soil tolerances
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
Impact: BiodiversityTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
A. pseudoplatanus wood is white, close-grained, and moderately hard. It was formerly much used in turnery, for cups, bowls and pattern blocks, is still reputedly used by saddlemakers and millwrights, and continues to be widely used for furniture manufacture, flooring and joinery (Savill, 1991). Occasionally, wavy-grained sycamore, which can fetch very high prices, occurs: in demand for musical instruments, especially violins. Veneer from this species is widely used in the furniture industry (van-Gelderen et al., 1994).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Shade and shelter
- Gene source
- Carved material
- Miscellaneous materials
Wood ProductsTop of page
Sawn or hewn building timbers
- Carpentry/joinery (exterior/interior)
- For light construction
- Industrial and domestic woodware
- Musical instruments
- Tool handles
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.Manual removal of seedlings and saplings is possible, i.e. hand pulling and digging up, but the roots must be completely removed, or cut stumps must be treated with a herbicide in order to prevent regeneration (Weber, 2003).
ReferencesTop of page
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Rhode Island Invasive Species Council, 2001. Plants that have been assessed and categorized by the Rhode Island Invasive Species Council as of 2/28/2001., http://members.tripod.com/CrissyH/invasivelist.htm
Seebens H, Blackburn T M, Dyer E E, Genovesi P, Hulme P E, Jeschke J M, Pagad S, Pyšek P, Winter M, Arianoutsou M, Bacher S, Blasius B, Brundu G, Capinha C, Celesti-Grapow L, Dawson W, Dullinger S, Fuentes N, Jäger H, Kartesz J, Kenis M, Kreft H, Kühn I, Lenzner B, Liebhold A, Mosena A (et al), 2017. No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide. Nature Communications. 8 (2), 14435. http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14435
Starowicz M, Kanturski M, Junkiert Ł, Wieczorek K, 2015. Aphids (Hemiptera: Aphidomorpha) of the Botanic Garden of the Jagiellonian University, Kraków. Polish Journal of Entomology. 84 (4), 325-338. http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/pjen
Tomov R, Trencheva K, Trenchev G, Kenis M, 2010. Occurrence of the harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis (Pallas, 1773) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in Bulgaria. IOBC/WPRS Bulletin. 159-164. http://www.iobc-wprs.org/pub/bulletins/bulletin_2010_58_table_of_contents_abstracts.pdf
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