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Discover Nature: Sycamores

Missouri Department of Conservation

Now that most leaves have fallen from Missouri’s trees, look for the smooth, white limbs of a giant rising over streams and river banks: Discover Nature this week with the American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis).

A living sentinel of our streams, sycamores provide year-round food and shelter for river wildlife.

Migrating songbirds, woodpeckers, wood ducks, and raccoons nest in its hollow cavities. Great blue herons and bald eagles build their bulky nests in its branches. And its roots shelter game fish and other aquatic wildlife, while stabilizing soil against heavy rain and erosive floods.

Even its broad leaves, which shade and cool water temperatures in summer, become food for insects and feed nutrients back to the soil when they fall.

An integral part of stream-side habitats, sycamores grow larger than any other deciduous tree in the United States.

Early explorers reported sycamores with trunks as large as 47-feet in circumference! For comparison, Missouri’s current champion sycamore measures approximately 19-feet in circumference (measured at four feet above the ground).

Learn more about the American Sycamore with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Trevor serves as KBIA’s weekday morning host for classical music. He has been involved with local radio since 1990, when he began volunteering as a music and news programmer at KOPN, Columbia's community radio station. Before joining KBIA, Trevor studied social work at Mizzou and earned a masters degree in geography at the University of Alabama. He has worked in community development and in urban and bicycle/pedestrian planning, and recently served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia with his wife, Lisa Groshong. An avid bicycle commuter and jazz fan, Trevor has cycled as far as Colorado and pawed through record bins in three continents.
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