I posted a blog back in January which featured this tree, a Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). No one grows Sycamores for bonsai, because their leaves are quite large and the internodal distance daunting. There is a Sycamore maple, Acer pseudoplatanus, which is uncommonly grown, but it has quite large leaves as well.


This particular specimen was another one of those incidental bonsai-to-be that I encounter from time to time. I had a very large Sycamore removed from my property several years ago. This one was either a root sucker or a smaller specimen that grew up among the roots of the larger one. I didn’t really want another Sycamore where I’d removed the first one, so I dug it up and resolved to make it into a bonsai if possible.


I wasn’t especially surprised when it survived collecting.

Here it is today, with a nice first flush of spring growth.

I’ve only pinched it a bit to keep some of the shoots from getting out of hand.

Time to put some design to it.


Here it is, distilled down to the essence of a tree form. Sycamores tend to grow arrow straight. This one had some curves and taper to the trunk, which is another reason I salvaged it. And now, with a basic branch set and new leader selected and positioned, it remains to be seen how much back-budding and ramification I can coax out of it.


To reiterate the lesson from the other day with the Crabapple I styled, here are the numbers and branch selections for this one. The first branch, on the left side, emerges from the outside of a trunk curve. The right branch does so as well, and the back branch completes the trio. Notice in this case that the first branch, which is 10″ from the soil surface, is about 40% of the distance from the soil to the ultimate height of the tree, which is right at 25″.

The proportions for this tree are 40% open trunk to the first branch, 40% in the “body” of the tree, and the final 20% for the crown. This, along with the trunk taper, produces the forced perspective that makes our trees look taller and larger than they are.

So what do you think of this Sycamore bonsai-to-be? I have no idea how well this one is going to work out, but I will give it my best shot.