Riparian Plants: Western Sycamore - Platanus racemosa
Western sycamore can be found in Valley oak riparian forests, mixed riparian forests, and cottonwood riparian forests. It is typically not a dominant tree species in any of the plant communities, and is most abundant in the higher, drier, mixed riparian forest communities. Western sycamore roots require access to the water table, and can develop roots to a depth of at least seven meters. It cannot tolerate long duration flooding, but can survive extended droughts. It prefers sandy loam soils that are well drained. Sycamore seeds are well adapted to large flood events, as their seeds can travel by water long distances to re-establish.
Western sycamores are moderate to large trees, ranging from 9 to 23 meters tall. The single to forked trunk can be up to 5 meters wide and is covered in smooth, white, peeling bark. The large branches extend to multiple smaller stems that are covered in the spring and summer by large leaves and create densely covered nesting sites for birds that prefer moderately high nesting sites. Heron and egret rookeries are often found in stands of sycamores. Some birds will also nest in the peeling bark. Western sycamore snags are especially important to cavity nesters in mixed riparian forests. Acorn woodpeckers, barn owls, and ringtail cats nest in sycamore cavities.
For more information about the ecological tolerances and structure of riparian plants, see Gaines 1977, Conard and others 1977, Holstein 1984, Sacchi and Price 1988, Faber and Holland 1996, Cooper and others 1999, Vaghti 2003, Fremier and Talley 2009, and Vaghti and others 2009.
Western Sycamore dimensions