I posted a couple of blogs earlier this year about the stately Sycamore (aka Plane tree), Platanus occidentalis. As I said at the time, I’ve never worked with the species before as it just has these huge leaves and doesn’t look all that inclined to produce much in the way of ramification in pot culture. At the same time, the bark of the mature Sycamore is just gorgeous, stark white under exfoliating greenish-tan. If you’ve ever seen one, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Recently, out of the blue, a reader asked if I had any Sycamore bonsai available. I offered the first one I collected this year. I had originally planned to just keep the tree and work on it, just so I could see what might be made of it. But hey, I’m always glad to help out a fellow bonsai enthusiast.

The only problem was, I was now devoid of a nice big Sycamore specimen to work on. However … a few years ago, a volunteer sprang up near the back of my property. I decided it would be fun to work on, so I chopped it low one season, with the intention of building taper over the course of a few seasons. But I never got back to working on it again, and it sorta kinda took off on me and got out of hand.


Here it is now. What I noticed about it is the nice fork in the trunk. If you do any collecting, this is one of the handy ways to find a tapering trunk in the wild. Often they will split at some point low on the trunk, which will allow you to cut to the smaller one and achieve a nice taper right off the bat.


You can make this chop first in the collecting process, if you so choose. It’s not an absolute, and you have to be prepared to seal the chop point relatively soon after making this cut.


Several minutes later, I’d dragged the tree to my potting bench, washed it off and chopped back the roots. Not a bad almost formal upright tree in the making.


In case you haven’t yet picked up on the real size of this tree, here it is potted in its growing tub. Yes, the trunk is about as wide as the tub is deep.

And that means, while you can’t fix stupid (meaning it’s kinda stupid for an old dude like me to be lifting trees this size) I found out you can measure it. Here’s the whole tree, once I cut off those two trunks. Stupid is about 25 feet tall.


I did say earlier this year that I was limiting the number of really big trees I planned to keep for my collection. They’re just way too heavy to be lugging around. This tree probably weighs about 40-50 pounds all by itself, and 80 or so in its tub. I do want to find out if I can make the leaves reduce in size enough, and the branching ramify enough, to make this species a potential bonsai candidate. One benefit to the size of this tree is I don’t need as much leaf-size reduction to make it look good. Plus, if I can get to the point where the bark starts exfoliating, it should make quite a show.