Growing Syamore Trees from Seed

mary_maxNovember 6, 2007

I would love to winter sow some London Plane or Sycamore tree seeds. I collected two seed pods today and have tons of seeds. How sucessful do you think this will be? Is it pretty easy to start these trees from seed? Thanks so much.

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shortleaf2002(5b 6a KCMO, USA)

Yes, its easy, I just sprinkled some in this container then, (see the little seeds laying in the Sunny D jug)? After they sprouted I'd pot them up. And they grow fast, I'd have a 4 gallon pot ready for them after 2 years. If you have 2 seed-balls you have plenty. I'm not familiar with the Utah Sycamore, it could have different habits, though likely similar.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 5:53AM
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Oh thanks for the encouraging words!! How cool and the picture was nice to see. Thank you. Do I cover the seeds? I plan to winter sow them later part of December, does that sound right?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 2:34PM
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You don't really need to soe the seeds till spring. If you notice the seed balls hang in the tree all winter then release the seeds in the early spring.
The sycamore makes an excelent long lived tree for erosion control.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 4:29AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i grew up in a late 1950's subdivision that had a sycamore in front of every house ....

setting aside my hatred of them .. lol ... in volume .. the FUZZ BALLS .... can lead to respiratory failure during the weeks they are falling off the trees.. and being shredded by cars and lawnmowers ....

in 35 years i have NEVER SEEN A SELF SOWN SEEDLING ... aka volunteer .. it might not be all that easy in zone 5 ....

so.. know your odds .. and .. good luck


    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 9:18AM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

They are attractive trees, esp. from a distance. However, while I am not trying to rain on your parade, Ken makes a good point about the allergy causing aspects. A friend had an old Sycamore removed after a large limb fell - luckily into the garden rather than the roof, which other branches were over-hanging. Her allergies cleared up by better than 50% - the guy who took it down said it seems to be one of the more allergy causing trees around - not just the flowers, and the pollen from them in spring, and the seed pods in fall and winter and spring, but also the leaves have little hairs on them which constantly break off and are in the air. If you or anyone in your household are at all prone to hay fever or asthma or allergies in general, you might want to re-think growing it. Or else site the trees well away and down-wind from the area you do most of you outdoor recreation in, if such is possible.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 10:38AM
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I have also thought about starting some from seed. The main drawback is you never know what you're going to get in the long run. There are some trees around here that are huge and truly beautiful, and there are others with lots of top dieback that are eyesores. I'm not sure what cause the dieback, maybe drought or anthracnose.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 12:26PM
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shortleaf2002(5b 6a KCMO, USA)

Yes, winter sowing in December sounds good, so long as you don't ruin the seeds before that. Storage of the seeds in the mean-while is important, for ex. they can't be left in the house at room temperature, they'll dry out and die. I'd just store them outside until then.
Cover them up? I think what I did was just sprinkle them in the pot of mud then gently just swirl them around in the mud so most got dirty and covered up (requires getting the fingers dirty). Remember, you have hundreds of seeds not just a few. They don't really need protection. They must be very hardy as seeds because they came up like gangbusters. I'll insert a photo of an American Sycamore seedling that I don't think was even a year old, in fact it may have been one that I grew from a seed that Spring.
Sorry I didn't reply sooner, I am nursing a kidney stone, I had some of the worst pain of my life yesterday.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2007 at 1:57AM
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treeguy123(AL 7b)

Cold stratification is not required for seed germination of American Sycamore. Just sow the seeds a tad under some good draining soil no deeper than 1/4 of a inch and keep them moist but not wet, also in a warm sunny place 70F to 80F. If you keep a fan blowing on the pot it it will help with damping off fungus from killing them but make sure the soil does not dry out. After they grow a somewhat tough woody stem, put them in a chilly place that stays around 40 or 50F until spring.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2007 at 12:05PM
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shortleaf2002(5b 6a KCMO, USA)

My $70 book The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation by Dirr and Heuser says this about Platanus occidentalis on the seeds: "While pregermination treatments are not required, there is evidence cold stratification improves germination."

    Bookmark   November 9, 2007 at 1:54PM
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Fledgeling_(4b SD)

For the eastern american species:

"Seedling Development- Pregermination treatments are not required (3). A large percentage of sound seeds usually germinate, but the great variation in number of sound seeds in a lot results in a wide range of germinative capacity.

Germination is epigeal and is affected by light. In tests made at temperatures ranging between 23° to 27° C (73° to 810 F), the mean germination under artificial light was 17.5 percent and only 3.1 percent in the dark (21). Seeds failed to germinate in the river-bottom soils of southern Illinois wherever litter was more than 2 inches deep. Sycamore seedlings must have direct light to survive; under favorable conditions they develop a strong, spreading root system and grow rapidly, as much as 91 to 122 cm (36 to 48 in) in height the first year. Roots also penetrate deeper in loess soil than in alluvial or clay soils."

    Bookmark   November 9, 2007 at 4:04PM
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I want to thank all of you for this cool information! You folks sure know your stuff. Thanks a million!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 12:58PM
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johnstaci(Z5/6 NW MO)

On my land I have about 50 come up every year on their own from wind-blown seed. They come up in an open field and I end up mowing them over. I think most come from a giant 6-8 foot diameter sycamore on my north property line. I'm in zone 5/6. They are "pioneer" trees around here. Agree with shortleaf - just sprinkly the seeds in good soil - just barely covered and let them go. Don't make it overly complicated.

Also, I wouldn't do much watering other than what natually falls. I think more people kill trees (especially small ones) from overwatering than underwatering. The root system won't develop properly if given too much water.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 1:19AM
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I picked up a Sycamore seed ball from the National Zoo last
year. I spread about 20 seeds on a wet paper napkin and
placed it in a plastic bag. I checked on it every few
days. After 4-5 days, little roots started poping out
of some of about half of them. Easiest things I've ever

    Bookmark   November 22, 2007 at 10:03PM
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Maybe a stupid question... but what do you get from London Plane seeds? They are hybrids... do you get unpredictable seedlings? Viable seeds that would continue future generations?

The oldest pre-"civilization" surviving trees in my city area are American Sycamores, I think they are pretty cool when huge

    Bookmark   November 22, 2007 at 11:34PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

London Planetree, FWIW seems to breed fairly "true" from seed, unless there's another Platanus species nearby.

However, to be honest, all the Platanus species, but esp. American Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis and London Planetree, Platanus x acerifolia, look a LOT alike..

My question is: Does anthracnose, in years like this when it's bad, also hit seedlings?

I've heard conflicting info - one says that seedlings are generally less affected, because less vigorous shoots are less affected, but I've also heard they can be killed outright by it.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 6:33PM
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I've picked up dried seed balls from near my house. How does one open the balls to extract the seeds? Bashing with a rock results in squashing the seed ball.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 12:00PM
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Those who are speaking of Sycamore trees causing allergies are half-right. I have severe allergies to maple, elm, cedar, and cottonwood pollen, but not to sycamore. You are usually alergic to whatever you are around a lot. For example, Ken was alergic to Sycamore pollen because he grew up with them, but he may not have any reaction to oak or maple tree pollen.
I would not be afraid of Sycamore trees if I were you. They are a native American tree and one of the oldest genus' of tree in the world.
As far as growing them from seeds... You won't know until you try. That's what I am going to do. If I can grow my own, it beats paying $60 to $70 at a nursery for one tree. Good luck and happy planting.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 2:02PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

Interesting way to revive an old thread - post an incorrect statement. Sycamore is well-known as a highly allergenic tree.


    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 4:12PM
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