Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)

Photo(c) Franz Xaver CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Family: Aceraceae

Growth Habit: A deciduous tree usually growing 12-25 m tall, but occasionally reaching up to 35 m. The trunks and branches of small trees are covered with smooth, grey bark turning reddish-brown and scaly as they get older. The wood is very pale, cream to almost white. Leaves are large, 7-30 cm long and 8-22 cm wide, divided into 3-5 broad lobes which cut about halfway to the base of the leave and resemble maple leaves. The upper surfaces of the leaves are usually dark green or occasionally bluish-green (i.e. glaucous) in colour and their undersides are lighter green and/or with a reddish or purplish tinge (particularly near the prominent veins). Leaves gradually change colour as they age and eventually turn yellowish or brownish before being shed during autumn and winter.

Type of Plant: Deciduous tree.

Flowers: The inconspicuous flowers appear with or after the first leaves each spring. Male and bisexual flowers are usually borne on the same plant. These flowers are greenish or greenish-yellow in colour and relatively small, about 6 mm across. They have five tiny sepals and five very small oblong petals, 2-4 mm long, that are similar in appearance to the sepals. Each flower also has 8-10 stamens and is borne on a slender stalk 3-8 mm long. They are arranged in branched or un-branched drooping clusters at the tips of the branches. These inflorescences are 5-20 cm long and contain 50-100 flowers and usually have hairy branches.

Fruits/Seeds: The distinctive v-shaped fruit, 3.5-5.5 cm long, are borne in drooping clusters and each fruit consists of two one-seeded structures that are prominently winged. Immature fruit are green or reddish-green in colour but turn brown in colour as they mature. They mature on the tree over summer and autumn. The relatively large seeds are about 5-10 mm long.

Dispersal: Seeds dispersed by wind with a distinctive propeller motion; also in water, soil. Sprouts from dumped prunings. Plants can reshoot or coppice from stumps.

Distribution: Can be found in gardens from where it escapes into neighbouring bushland. Found around Tasmania. Recorded sites in the Tamar are Cataract Gorge (being controlled), Targa, Lilydale and Lebrina.

Status: Environmental weed in Tasmania.

Weed Impacts:

  • Invades wet and damp forests and riverbanks, where it replaces native trees and shrubs, destroying food and habitat sources for native birds and animals.

Control Methods:

  • Replace or plant alternative species. For example: Liquidamber styraciflua, Eastern Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) or Cut Leave Plane (Platanus orientalis ‘Digitata’).
  • Manual Removal. Small seedlings can be hand pulled;
  • Herbicide. Cut and paint or drill and fill larger plants.

N.B. Always check the herbicide label before use.