4 Reasons To Cut Down Your Sycamore Tree (And When To Do It)

Trunks of a sycamore tree

Sycamore trees provide shade on bright summer days, but these trees may cause more problems than they solve. However, sycamore trees might not be as harmless as you once thought. You may even need to cut down your sycamore tree.

You should cut down your sycamore tree if it is too large, attracting pests, growing fungi, or the tree is dying. Additionally, sycamore tree roots can span over 30 feet at full growth, potentially causing issues with your foundation, sewage system, and electrical writing.

Read on to learn more about sycamore trees and the reasons why you might want to cut yours down!

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What Are Sycamore Trees?

There are eight known species of sycamore trees, all belonging to the plane-tree family. Three of these species are U.S. natives. Sycamore trees commonly grow in the Eastern and Central United States.

According to the C. Frank Brockman book, Trees of North America, sycamore trees are common along streams and thrive in moist soils.

Sycamore trees grow to be large very quickly. They can grow to be 120 feet tall with a trunk that is 10 feet in diameter.

The Department of Horticulture at Kentucky University tells us sycamore trees have a rounded, wide-spreading canopy of massive branches. Some sycamore canopies can branch as wide as 80 feet

These trees produce multiple fruits, commonly called button balls. These button balls consist of many elongated seeds packed into a small sphere that grows from the tree. Each seed has hairs at its base. 

Because of the size of their canopy, sycamore trees often get used for shade in yards and parks. However, recently many sycamores get used in intensively cultured biomass farms in the Southeastern United States. 

Why You May Need To Cut Down Your Sycamore Tree

They might be shady and handsome trees, but there are many risks to growing sycamores on your land. Since they grow so quickly, their fast-reaching limbs and roots can cause damage to buildings, pavement, and underground pipes. 

These trees are also highly susceptible to bug infestation and fungal diseases like anthracnose. Symptoms of anthracnose are often lethal in aged sycamores. Sycamore trees shed leaves, twigs, branches, and bark, causing mess and damage or even preventing the growth of plants nearby

These trees are difficult to care for and clean after. 

Let’s further review why getting rid of your sycamore might be the best idea!

Sycamore Trees Grow Fast And Large

Large sycamore tree

Sycamores are known to grow quicker than other trees. According to a USDA synopsis on sycamore trees, they grow fast and have long lives in the lowlands.

Sycamores can grow up to 2 feet per year. Ten years after planting a sapling, the tree can grow 15-30 feet tall. This growth rate often generates several issues to the land, soil, and plant life in the area. 

These trees grow to be very large as well. Some sycamores can attain a height of 70-100 feet, and their trunks can grow up to 10 feet in diameter. 

Sycamore tree crowns can spread up to 80 feet across. 

Their size and growth rate means sycamores can often get planted too close to one another. Once saplings mature, they increase their intake of resources. If two or more sycamore trees get planted too close to each other, they will compete for sunlight, water, and the nutrients in the soil. 

Without access to enough resources to grow, the competing sycamores will weaken and become more susceptible to disease and infestation. 

Another downside to the extraordinary size of this tree is branch dieback can cause property damage. When infected or infested, these limbs can weaken and break away from the tree and onto a building, vehicle, car, or home. If you have a large sycamore near your property, consider cutting it down or having a professional assess its health.

Pests And Parasitic Fungi Love Sycamore Trees

Many insects feed on sycamores, severely damaging them or even causing death in aged trees or trees with reduced vigor. The lace bug, the sycamore-heartwood borer, and the tussock moth are the primary pests of sycamore trees.

Sycamores are also prone to ant attacks, which cause ingrown bark pockets and reduce the quality of the wood. If you grow your sycamore trees for the use of their lumber, ant attacks will render a portion of the wood unusable. 

Botryodiplodia theobromae are fungi that cause infections in sycamore trees. It produces cankers on the trees it infects.

This species of fungi and many others including, Ceratocystis fimbriata and Apiognomonia veneta, cause catastrophic damage to sycamore trees. 

Some of the damage caused by these fungi include leaf scorch, leaf shed, branch and twig dieback, and the formation of lethal cankers.

Sycamore Trees Shed And Leave Debris

Sycamore trees shed leaves, twigs, branches, seeds, and bark because of several damaging causes and growth cycles. Prepare for sycamore debris year-round when growing these trees on your property. 

A common sycamore problem, called Anthracnose, defoliates the tree and causes a mass leaf shed. The number of leaves that sycamore trees drop during this issue can likely cause blockage in draining systems.

Other reasons for unnatural leaf shed in sycamores are lack of water, insect infestation, herbicides added to the soil, over-fertilization, light damage, root damage, and flooding.

Cold temperatures in winter may injure the cork cambium and cause the tree to shed its outer bark. Temperatures in Late spring may freeze and kill the buds on a sycamore.

This damage often leads to dead twigs and a bushy heap of leaves piled around the trunk. Chemicals released in fallen leaves can prevent plant growth for the underlying turf

Sycamore trees shed hair too! The seeds of these trees have hairs that act like a parachute when carried by the wind. In the early stages of seed dispersal, they pack together to form a ball and hang from the tree until late winter or early spring.

From February to May, the seed balls break apart into individual seeds. The seeds then drop from the tree and get carried further away by the wind. 

The hairs on sycamore seeds, often called fuzz, often cause allergy flares and itchy eyes. 

Sycamore Tree Roots Can Cause Problems

Sycamores have a widespread, strongly branched root system. The roots can grow to have a radius of 30 feet and about 2 feet under the soil. These shallow and fast-growing root systems can cause damage to buildings, underground pipes, septic systems, and pavement.

These trees are not the only ones capable of causing similar issues. Check out 9 Trees That Can Damage Your Foundation (& How To Fix) to avoid planting a tree with the same tendencies.

The rapid growth of these large roots causes the soil to expand and shrink, shifting the foundation under pavement or even under your home.

These roots can grow through or around septic systems underground and potentially break or burst the pipes. Burst pipes often lead to issues with plumbing and leaks that may further affect the foundation. 

If pipe problems are the reason you want to get rid of your sycamore tree, consider replacing it with a less problematic species. This article, 6 Best Shade Trees To Plant That Don’t Cause Root Problems, is a great place to start learning!

What You Need To Cut Down A Sycamore Tree

Sycamore tree in full leaf in a field summer with a blue sky and clouds to the rear.

So, we’ve reviewed the main reasons to consider cutting down your sycamore tree. 

Now let’s learn how to get the job done! There are many safety precautions put in place to prevent damage and injury. You also need to review the regulations and protocols surrounding tree removal and clearing.

Aside from that, you shouldn’t cut down an adult sycamore tree without the help of an experienced professional – generally if you search online for a local arborist or tree removal company, they specialize in the removal and pruning of large trees and will give you advice on the best steps for your sycamore.

Cutting down a sycamore can be a daunting task for those unfamiliar with removing trees. They can get up to 100ft tall! There is much to know about cutting down sycamores between laws, regulations, techniques, and safety precautions.

So, with all that being said, it’s best to leave it to the pros.

Permit For Cutting Down Your Sycamore Tree

Before cutting down a tree on your property, you must verify whether regulations or laws set by your city or county limit the removal of the tree. You can find these regulations listed in the Tree Protection Ordinance belonging to your city or county. 

Dead trees, dangerous trees, non-protected trees, and local pest species are usually okay to cut down (by the property owner) without a permit. However, review the Tree Protection Ordinance in your area to avoid any fines or legal troubles. Cutting a protected tree down may even cost thousands of dollars, depending on the location and regulations. 

If you are struggling to find the Tree Protection Ordinance for your area, call a local arborist and give them the location of the trees in question. They can tell you if the city protects the tree or not.

The Best Time To Cut Down A Sycamore Tree

Now, when is the actual BEST time to cut down your sycamore tree?

Point blank, if the tree is actually causing an immediate issue such as pests, overhanging branches near your home or the roots are spreading too far and wide – you should try and get your sycamore tree taken down immediately.

Since sycamore trees can get up to 100ft tall, you may have a large branch that needs to be taken down ASAP as it could be too close to your home or driveway. Again, this presents an immediate issue and should be dealt with! This is especially true if the tree is browning or dying.

If your sycamore tree is simply just shedding a lot of leaves and leaving debris, you can most likely hold off a bit as its not usually an urgent issue.

For instance, we have several 100ft+ Northern Spruce trees directly next to our house. They shed like CRAZY and often clog our gutters. Routinely, I need to go up and clean them out, especially during a rainstorm!

However, we simply love the trees and wouldn’t dream of cutting them down (although we did consider it at one point!) So, we’d rather take the extra shedding and just prune the tree.

This could be the same case with your sycamore tree in that if it’s shedding, you may just rather prune the tree so you can keep the cover and beauty it may provide.

Whatever the situation, contact a professional arborist near you who can advise on your specific sycamore tree and give you next steps!

Uses For Cut Sycamore Wood

After the tree and stump are gone, an excess amount of sycamore wood will remain. This wood makes fantastic kindling and fuel for fires. To make firewood, take an axe to the manageable logs, and split it into small wedges. 

However, sycamore wood has had many uses throughout history!

These trees have a shiny silk-like appearance that makes sycamore wood the perfect material for carving. Sycamore wood is also relatively bendy. With its elastic qualities, sycamore branches and twigs work well for projects that require bentwood, like baskets or dome shelters and coverings.

Back to the firewood aspect, it’s a great idea to at least use the wood for an outdoor campfire. Sycamore wood is one of our recommended best firewoods to burn overall!

Just make sure the wood isn’t rotted or has any major issues and you’ll be in great shape! If you get the tree professionally cut down, you can ask them to leave the cut pieces and you can chop the firewood yourself.

Furthermore, you’ll probably be able to ask for a nice discount to boot!

That’s All We’ve Got!

Whether you are making space in your yard for a new project or the sycamores on your land are causing issues, we hope you feel more confident in your abilities. Take back control and bring down those problem-causing sycamore trees. 

No more sycamore fluff, twig and leaf litter, or pavement damage. 

With a bit of hard work and a goal in mind, you can solve your sycamore dilemmas today. 

Be safe and ask for a professional’s help if unable to carry out the tree cutting process by yourself.

Thank you for reading!

References

Brockman, C. F., Merrilees, R. A., Latimer, J. P., & Nolting, K. S. (2002). Trees of North America: A field guide to the major native and introduced species north of Mexico. Amazon.

Filer, T. H. (1969). An experimental test of interspecific competition … – USDA. usda.gov.

Wells, O. O., & Schmidtling, R. C. (n.d.). Sycamore. Platanus occidentalis L.

University of Kentucky. (2021). American sycamore. American Sycamore | Department of Horticulture.

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