Tree Questions

Do Sycamore Trees Shed Their Bark?

I remember how much admiration I had for the giant sycamore tree at the end of our driveway when we moved into our current house. I still appreciate that tree, but I quickly learned that I had a lot to learn.

Do sycamore trees shed their bark? Sycamore trees consistently shed their bark throughout the growing seasons. This shedding is most intense in the hottest months of summer and following windstorms or heavy rains, but you can expect it to occur throughout the majority of the year.

Now that we’ve covered the quick and easy answer, let’s dive into exactly what’s going on here.

What Kind of Bark Shedding to Expect From a Sycamore Tree

There’s no way around it: sycamore trees are some of the most notorious shedders in the tree world.

How much bark you can expect a sycamore tree to shed depends upon a few different variables, but just know that a sycamore tree at maturity will shed quite a lot. Needless to say, these are not the best trees for landowners looking for a meticulous lawn and garden.

Mature Trees Shed From Branches and the Trunk

You can expect that bark will be shed on a wide range underneath your sycamore tree. This is because the bark is shed from the trunk of the tree and any branch larger than an inch or two in diameter.

As you might expect, your sycamore tree will create a consistent need for cleaning up and therefore is definitely one of the messiest trees around. The shedding is most aggressive with more mature sycamore trees, as they have a larger network of branches and a larger trunk.

If you’d like to read more about what to expect from your sycamore tree, you can read this post that goes into greater detail regarding its shedding tendencies.

A Permanent Bark May Take Over Mature Trunks From the Ground Up

You might notice some of the more mature sycamore trees in your area have a scaley bark that starts at the base of the trunk and tends to make its way up the tree. This bark doesn’t appear to shed, and it ends up covering the area that used to be covered by the previously shed multicolored plate bark.

As I mentioned earlier, this pattern is mostly visible on more mature sycamore trees, but it does seem to be a rather common occurrence once they reach a certain age. This doesn’t appear to occur until sycamore trees are reaching an older age.

Younger Trees Still Shed, Just Not Nearly as Much

All that said, younger sycamore trees do happen to shed their bark; they just don’t do it in such high volumes. Therefore you may not consider that younger sycamore tree to be that much of a nuisance from a lawn care vantage point, but you can expect that tree to quickly grow into one.

One of the reasons why sycamore trees are so frequently included in suburban landscapes is that they grow so quickly. Combined with their tolerance of environments with excessive air pollution, you can see why they’re such a commonly found tree in the suburbs. You can expect a younger sycamore tree to start shedding quite a lot by the time it’s about 25 years old.

When Sycamore Trees Shed Their Bark

Any observant owner of a sycamore tree has probably already realized this, but these trees are constantly shedding something the entire year-round. Whether they are dropping their leaves for some reason in the dead cold of winter or shedding bark and branches the rest of the year, these trees are quite messy.

You can expect your sycamore tree to primarily shed bark during the growing season. It does seem that a small amount of bark may be shed during the winter months, but it is pretty minimal. As you probably can guess, your peak shedding months will occur while growth is fastest during the hot summer months.

Shedding does occur consistently throughout these months, but you can expect an event like a windstorm or heavy rain to knock down additional pieces of bark. You’ll likely also find a variety of branches down after a major storm event like that, as the limbs of a sycamore tree are known to be rather weak. Long story short, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Shed Sycamore Bark: an Excellent Fire Kindling

For as much as I could complain about the constant shedding of the sycamore tree, I have to admit that it’s a pretty great source for kindling.

Between the shed bark and the dead branches, a mature sycamore tree provides everything you need to start an almost endless amount of backyard campfires.

Final Thoughts

Well I hope you enjoyed this post and came away having learned a thing or two about the mighty sycamore tree. It may be a bit of a pain in the butt to manage, but it’s still a pretty unique tree that gives a lot of beauty to a landscape. A big part of that is the patchwork of multi-colored bark that sheds so easily.

If you found this post interesting and you’re looking for more to learn, feel free to check out any of the below posts:

Tree Questions

Are Bur Oak Trees Messy?

Our neighborhood is lined with dozens of mature bur oak trees and I couldn’t be happier about that. With that being said, they do tend to create a bit of a mess.

Are bur oak trees messy? Bur oak trees have acorns with a larger cup than most white oaks. As the acorns are a prized resource for many animals such as squirrels, the broken shells and cups are typically scattered all over underneath a bur oak tree.

Now that we’ve got the quick and easy answer out of the way, let’s get into the finer details of what you can expect from your bur oak tree.

What Kind of Mess Do Bur Oak Trees Produce?

Before I get into the details about exactly what kind of mess you can expect from a bur oak tree, I do have to say that these are pretty awesome trees. A great addition to the suburban landscape, the mighty bur oak tree is great enough to be forgiven for the casual and occasional mess.

You Should Expect Some Kind of Mess From Late Summer Through Late Fall

Here’s a general timeline of what kind of mess you can expect from your bur oak tree: it’s normal to expect some debris on the ground from late summer through late fall.

Once you start getting into the end of summer in August, you’ll likely start seeing the bad acorns being ejected from the tree. These don’t create that much of a mess, but you definitely will take notice as they are often larger and containing several leaves attached. Sometime around early September, you can expect to have the mast of acorns dropping from your bur oak.

The dropping of the acorns shouldn’t last more than a week or so, but you can expect a mature bur oak tree to produce buckets and buckets of acorns.

You might start to notice leaves dropping from your tree as early as a month after the mast dropped, but that depends on your specific tree. Most bur oak trees won’t start dropping their leaves until a little later, usually around mid-to-late October.

Obviously, this depends on where you live and how low nighttime temperatures have been in that year.

Squirrels Will Create Most of the Mess

Here’s where we get to the real culprit in all this: the squirrels are really to blame for the messy results from the acorns of a bur oak tree. Acorns themselves are simple enough to clean up, but the reality is that your squirrels will chew up the shells and the cups, and they’ll be all over for weeks.

There’s just no way around it; these guys are some sloppy eaters.

Now, most acorns do end up creating a real mess, but what makes bur oak acorns real special is just how large the cup is (aka the hat of the acorn). It’s just decently larger than most other white oak trees around.

Expect Leaves to Start Dropping Within a Month or so of Acorn Crop

After the acorns have dropped and the squirrels are done making a giant mess out of everything, you get a brief reprieve before the leaves start to fall. Most trees will hold onto their leaves well into October, but you may get a few trees losing their leaves around late September.

I noticed this started happening once nighttime temperatures started getting down into the 40s at night, but your experience may vary. With that being said, the leaves of a bur oak tree make for relatively easy cleanup, as they are large enough to be raked up quickly.

Location Does Matter When Considering the Mess

When I talk about the mess created by a bur oak tree, I think the only time that it’s can tend to look unsightly is when you have a bur oak tree over a sidewalk or driveway. Any area that gets a decent amount of foot traffic and is made of concrete will create a great environment for pedestrians to finish the squirrel’s half-done job.

While lawns can look a little messy after the acorns drop, all of the debris and shells seem to blend in pretty quickly afterward. Now I would probably avoid going barefoot while walking on a lawn that recently had a litter of acorn shells and husks spread all over it, but this won’t be a big deal for most.

Of all the houses in our neighborhood that had bur oak trees, even the most neatly manicured lawns still had a decent mess on the sidewalk. There’s just no fighting it; these mature trees drop a ton of material on the ground.

What Kind of Mess Should You Expect From a Newly Planted Tree?

So you may be thinking that that’s great when we’re talking about mature bur oak trees, but what about the homeowner looking to plant a young tree? According to the USDA PLANTS database, the earliest that you could expect a bur oak tree to start producing acorns is 5 years from germination.

Most trees won’t start producing acorns that early on, and frankly, it’ll be many decades before any tree produces the large volume needed to make such a mess.

You’ll have many decades to enjoy your new bur oak tree, and you can more or less consider it a problem for the next family.

An Awesome Tree for the Suburbs Regardless of Mess

For everything that I’ve said about the mess that these trees create, I do have to profess great admiration for them. We have bur oak trees throughout our neighborhood, and they are a tremendous addition if only for their beauty.

Some of the trees in our neighborhood must be at least 100 years old, and they have some absolutely massive trunks that are so big that the sidewalks are poured to accommodate the trees. These trees also have a quite interesting habit as the secondary branches are rather stout and don’t stray far from the main branch.

All in all, they’re an awesome addition to the neighborhood, and they’re one of my favorite trees to be on the lookout for when we go on walks. One of the reasons they thrive so much in this setting is that they have a decent tolerance for the pollution associated with suburban areas.

A wide variety of animals also enjoys the acorns, the most famous squirrels that our dog always seems to find tucked around the other side of a bur oak tree.

Concluding Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and picked up a thing or two along the way. I’ve really come to appreciate these trees over the years, and I hope others share that feeling.

If you liked this article, you may find these related articles to be an interesting read:

Tree Questions

When Do Honey Locust Trees Lose Their Leaves?

Despite being nearly the perfect shade tree, the honey locust tends to only have its leaves around for a short time.

When do honey locust trees lose their leaves? Honey locust trees are one of the first trees in the fall to start losing their leaves. Once a honey locust tree starts to turn yellow, you can expect the entire tree to lose its leaves in two to three weeks. Leaves start to turn yellow when nighttime lows dip into the 40s.

I’ll show you everything you need to know about honey locust trees at this time of year: from timing to cleanup and more.

What to Expect About a Honey Locust Tree Losing Leaves

The leaves of a honey locust tree truly have a short life-span. One of the last trees to leaf out in spring, and one of the first trees to lose their leaves in the fall, it’s best to enjoy your dappled shade while it lasts.

How to Look for Early Signs of Leaves Falling

Honey locust trees tend to have a small patch of their canopy turn yellow early in the season. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

If you notice that part of your honey locust looks like that, you can expect for the leaves to be shed completely in the next two to three weeks.

In our region (6a USDA zone for Chicago), we typically see our honey locust trees start to lose their leaves in late September or early October, depending on the weather for that year. This means that nighttime temperatures have steadily been in the 50s, and may have dipped down into the 40s on occasion.

As trees lose their leaves in accordance to temperature changes, you can expect your honey locust trees to start losing their leaves once you reach similar temperatures.

Leaves will start to fall as soon as part of the tree starts turning yellow, so you can expect the leaves to fall quickly. Here’s what the fallen leaves and branches look like:

Notice that you’ll have a mix of fallen leaflets and some complete compound leaves.

How Long it Takes a Honey Locust to Lose Their Leaves

Once your honey locust tree starts to lose leaves, you can expect that all of the leaves will have fallen in a few weeks.

Here’s about what you can expect the honey locust tree to look like once the leaves have fully turned yellow:

This is the point when you can expect your lawn or garden to be littered with the bright yellow leaves and leaflets.

Leaves Fall Around Same Time as Purple Seedpods

It’s also worth noting that the honey locust leaves drop around the same time that they drop their purple seed pods. Some domesticated varieties of honey locust trees are bred to not have the seedpods, but I believe the majority should have them.

There’s no two ways around it: between the tiny yellow leaflets and the purple seedpods, the honey locust tree makes a pretty good mess. You can expect a mature honey locust tree to drop several hundred seedpods.

If you’re looking to avoid the additional work of pulling up honey locust seedlings the next year, you might want to clean up the seedpods sooner than later. The seedpods are a food to a wide variety of wild animals, and they contain small seeds ready to start the next generation of trees. As such, the longer that animals have the opportunity to eat the pulp of the seedpod, the more trees they’ll accidentally plant.

If you happen to be like me and don’t mind some weeds here or there (my wife might consider that a bit of an understatement), then no need to feel any rush. Just enjoy your beautiful fall days!

What Kind of Clean-Up to Expect

It’s a bit tedious, but the clean-up of honey locust leaves isn’t too bad at all. First of all, they drop in the earliest days of fall, where the days are still a bit warm but you get those crisp fall nights. Any chore that gets me outside at this time of year is more than welcome.

Here’s the part that makes it a bit tedious: the small leaflets to tend to get left behind in the grass. I don’t think this really has an impact on the grass as long as you leave piles of them on your grass, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Our lawn in our backyard is rather small, so I usually prefer to handle our honey locust leaves and seedpods manually with a rake. You can definitely use a leaf blower fitted with the vacuum attachment, but I find that it takes longer than I’d wish to finish that way.

You might also consider bagging them up with a lawn mower if you use a mechanical mower with a bagging attachment.

Uses for Honey Locust Leaves

Before we drag the bags of leaves to the curb for the city to haul away, consider a couple of alternative uses.

If you have garden beds that are protected by the wind you might want to save your bagged leaves for use as a mulch. These leaves can make an effective mulch on all sorts of garden beds, but perhaps the best use is as a mulch on vegetable gardens.

As anyone with a vegetable garden knows, mulches that consist of large leaves or heavy debris like woodchips are problematic on most parts of the vegetable garden. Simply put, delicate vegetable seedlings stand no chance against a wood chip and they can’t compete with large leaves like maple leaves that form dense mats that smother.

So if you have a vegetable garden, save your honey locust leaves for use as a mulch. I prefer to spread the leaves a few inches deep on my garden beds after I’ve raked them up. Then I like to spray them down a bit in order to prevent them from blowing away so easily. The timing of this all is fortuitous as I’m usually starting to wind down parts of my vegetable gardens at the same time I’m raking up the leaves.

If you don’t have a vegetable garden but happen to know a neighbor that does, ask them if they’d like your leaves for use as a mulch. They might really appreciate the gesture.

Concluding Thoughts

Being one of the first trees to drop their leaves, yellow honey locust leaflets on the ground is truly a bell-ringer for the fall season.

If you liked this article, you may find these related articles to be an interesting read:

Tree Questions

Do All Honey Locust Trees Have Thorns?

I remember the first time I saw the thorns on our supposedly thornless honey locust tree. Wickedly sharp, super tough, and featuring three separate points, these thorns were nothing to mess with.

Do all honey locust trees have thorns? Though native honey locust trees are typically densely covered in long, tough thorns, horticulturalists developed thornless honey locust varieties. While they almost always remain thornless, these domesticated varieties have the ability to produce thorns in rare cases.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Keep reading and you’ll find out everything you need to know to the relationship between the honey locust tree and those thorns.

Thorns and the Honey Locust Tree: A Complicated Story

Here we’ll go over how thorns may or may not appear in the various settings that honey locust trees grow. From domesticated thornless stock to the wild and thorny native honey locust, there’s a lot to cover.

Native Honey Locust Trees are Heavily Thorned

Honey locust trees are native to the Midwest and have a natural range that extends as far east as central Pennsylvania. They occur mostly in river valleys and are capable of forming dense thickets that can exact punishment on any living thing that encounters their mess of lengthy thorns.

Every fall honey locust trees produce purple-ish seed pods that contain small seeds. These seeds have an incredibly durable seed coat that allows them to survive long after the seed pods have rotted away or animals have eaten them.

As you can imagine, even the wild honey locust trees are considered somewhat of a nuisance throughout their range. The fact sheet on the honey locust tree provided by the USDA states that their thorns are capable of puncturing the tires of farm implements. It’s no wonder that people were interested in thornless varieties.

Domesticated Varieties are Thornless, but Have the Capacity to Develop Thorns

Years ago horticulturalists developed thornless varieties of the honey locust tree. This proved to make all the difference for the honey locust, as the once threatening tree now seemed pretty appealing.

Relatively fast growing, capable of tolerating the increased pollution of urban and suburban lots, and casting a wonderfully dappled shade below, honey locust trees have been planted all over in many locations. They’re one of the most common trees in our heavily-treed neighborhood in Chicago, and for good reason.

thorns growing from domesticated honey locust branch that was originally thornless

With that said, it is still possible for the thornless honey locust tree to produce thorns in the right (err….wrong?) circumstances. What’s interesting is that the thorny branches don’t necessarily have to exist on the entire tree, and they can be isolated.

And while it’s not impossible for your thornless honey locust tree to start producing thorns, this does appear to be a rare scenario. Just out of curiosity (and perhaps a little jealousy), I’ve casually scoured dozens of other honey locust trees in our neighborhood for thorns. So far I believe I’ve only seen one other tree that produced any thorns.

Offspring Have the Ability to Produce Thorns

If you have a mature, thornless honey locust tree that produces seed pods, you very well likely have small honey locust seedlings all over your lot. This is normal and just part of caring for a honey locust tree, but there is a possibility that a seedling may develop thorns from the start.

For that reason it is a good idea to always take an extra split second to check a honey locust seedling for thorns before pulling it up. These thorns are rather small when the seedling is in its first year, but the thorns on an older seedling could do some damage if you weren’t paying attention.

What to do if Your Thornless Honey Locust Goes Rogue

So maybe you’re like me and you’re looking at a domesticated honey locust tree that decided to sprout some of the vicious thorns they’re known for. What to do now?

First things first, I’m a firm believer that you should do everything you can to mitigate the problem right away. Not only incredibly sharp, the thorns produced by a honey locust tree are incredibly durable. All of this adds up to this reality: these thorns can do some real damage in an accident.

If it’s at all possible, I think it makes the most sense to prune the thorns off of the branch before pruning the branch itself. This will serve to “disarm” the branch and will give you a little bit of peace of mind once you start cutting away. But, there’s one more thing: it’s critical that you not lose the thorns in the lawn if you start pruning them off.

If I recall correctly, the last time I pruned the thorns off of a honey locust branch I utilized both a pair of pruning shears and a pliers. The pruning shears obviously did the cutting while the pliers held a tight grip on the thorn as it was cut off. The odds are you’ll be doing this on a ladder or some kind of platform, so take care to remain as steady as possible.

If you can’t cut the thorns off before pruning the branch off, be sure to exercise caution when making your cuts. Think of it like this: between the dense honey locust branches and the several inch long thorns, you’re essentially cutting down a heavy and spiked club when you prune. So take extreme care to ensure that you’re cutting from a position of safety, as any unexpected movement from the falling branch could turn into a very dangerous situation.

If you go to the effort of pruning off thorny branches, you can expect that your honey locust tree will likely send out more thorny branches in their place. I most recently pruned off the thorny branches from our tree in the early spring, and by the next fall I noticed new thorny growth originating from the same location.

With that said, the thorns on the new growth were not yet so severe, so pruning that new growth off was quite easy. Going forward this will likely be yearly maintenance for our tree.

Concluding Thoughts

Hopefully you found this article interesting and you came away with some value. As much as I tend to despise the several inch long thorns of our honey locust tree, I can admit that I find them somewhat fascinating.

If you liked this article, you may find these related articles to be an interesting read:

Tree Questions

Are Honey Locust Trees Messy?

Our backyard has a large honey locust tree that we’ve really come to appreciate.

Are honey locust trees messy? While honey locust trees drop both small leaflets from their compound leaves and purple seed pods, these drop around the same time in fall. The resulting mess is rather easy to clean-up, though the small leaflets are a bit difficult to manually rake.

With all of that said, read below to learn more about what you can expect from a honey locust tree.

Messes You Can Expect From a Mature Honey Locust Tree

There are three main ways that a honey locust tree may make a “mess” in your yard: the dropping of leaflets in the fall, the dropping of the purple seed pods in the fall, and the rise of small honey locust seedlings everywhere and anywhere.

Small Leaflets will Drop in the Fall

One of the main reasons why honey locusts provide such a nicely dappled shade is the fact that their compound leaves have tiny leaflets. Every fall these leaflets turn a pleasant shade of yellow and drop within a several week time period.

While these leaflets are generally easy to clean up, their small size makes it a bit difficult to rake up and bag manually. I haven’t tried it yet, but I believe that a leaf blower converted to the vac shredder option should pick up the small leaflets well enough.

Those like myself who aren’t so concerned about the appearance of their lawn will be more than happy to leave some of the small leaflets behind.

I have found that the leaflets of the honey locust tree make a great mulch on vegetable beds, as their small size reduces the likelihood that they smother a delicate vegetable seedling.

Purple Seedpods Will Drop in the Fall

Perhaps the feature that honey locust trees are best known for, you may be familiar with the purple pods that contain the honey locust seeds.

Similar to the way that oak trees shed their defective acorns before they release the healthy acorns, you can expect some defective seedpods around the end of summer. In my experience this is a pretty small percentage of the seedpods that are dropped early, but some drop every year for us.

Regarding the main event: you can expect a mature honey locust tree to drop a few hundred purple seed pods around the middle of fall. These seed pods are kind of a pain, but they clean up easily enough.

If you’re like myself and have a slight composting obsession, my observations are that the pods break down easily enough but seeds are incredibly durable. I’m lazy and don’t want to go through the work of sifting my finished compost, so I just accept that any bed with the compost I apply will have a few volunteer honey locust seedlings.

You May See Honey Locust Seedlings All Over

I’m not sure if this is the case for everyone, but one observation I’ve made is that I sure pull up a lot of honey locust seedlings each year. This could be my fault in case I’ve not cleaned the seedpods quickly enough, but I would bet that I would bet that I’ve pulled up several hundred seedlings in the last year.

The seedlings pull up rather easily, and it’s best to pull them up in the first year before they get a little more difficult to dig out.

There’s one important thing to keep in mind when pulling up honey locust seedlings: even if you have a thornless honey locust tree you would be wise to watch for thorns on the seedlings. As I can recall, I’ve only come across two honey locust seedlings with thorns, and I’ve pulled up several hundred seedlings.

Be Aware of Thornless Honey Locust Trees Developing Thorns

That sounds a little odd, right? Thornless plants developing thorns?

It turns out that it’s more than possible, and my layman’s understanding is that the domesticated thornless honey locust tree may occasionally develop thorns in the right circumstances.

close up picture of honey locust branches with thorned from domestic variety

The vast majority of the branches on our tree do not appear to have thorns, but we had some lower branches on the tree that had large thorns. I cut off the thorny branches earlier in the spring, and by fall I’ve noticed that the new branches from the same spot are sporting some nasty thorns as well.

I don’t think that it’s very common that a thornless honey locust tree develops thorns. Ever since noticing our thorny branches I’ve looked over dozens of the other honey locust trees in our neighborhood, and I’ve yet to find another thorny tree.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this post and got a thing or two out of it.

If you liked this article, you may find these related articles to be an interesting read:

Tree Questions

Are Sycamore Trees Messy?

I’ve always been a sucker for trees, so when we bought our current house I couldn’t have been happier with the massive sycamore sitting at the end of our driveway. Years later, I’ve come to admire that tree just a little less.

Are sycamore trees messy? With bark that continuously sheds throughout the growing season and leaves that slowly drop throughout the coldest winter months, the American sycamore tree is quite messy. Homeowners looking for a low maintenance tree should steer clear.

So, let’s dive in: in this post I’m going to outline all the ways that the American sycamore tree, while beautiful and elegant in its own right, has got to be one of the messiest trees around.

Sycamore Trees: One of the Messiest Out There

From the shedding bark to the falling twigs to the leaves that hang on for dear life, the sycamore tree really likes to keep it messy.

Their Bark Sheds Continuously Throughout the Growing Season

Before I get into the part of this rant, I mean post, where I share my experience with the bark of sycamore trees: I do have to confess an admiration for how the bark looks. There’s no way around it: I think this bark looks downright cool.

Featuring a patchwork of grays that range from nearly white to a relatively dark gray, the bark of sycamore trees has an entirely unique appearance that almost looks like a type of camouflage.

But here’s the kicker: this patchwork of bark is made of individual pieces, and as the sycamore grows during the warmer months it will continuously shed pieces of bark.

Also, this shedding doesn’t solely occur near the base of the tree. Much shedding occurs on the upper branches, so we routinely have bark that lands up to 30 feet away from the tree trunk. The bark also more or less sheds continuously, so you can expect a steady stream of pieces of bark to be shedding from a mature sycamore tree.

One last complaint about the shed bark of sycamore trees before moving on: when it sheds it comes off in a rather thin layer that is somewhat fragile. This means that it tends to break into pieces if you aren’t delicate when picking it up.

Formation of Branches Allows for Many Small Twigs to Drop

While I think the branches of sycamore trees have a unique and neat appearance, the truth is that their unique formation tends to produce a lot of small twigs. You can see it in the picture below, where this branch has a bunch of small twigs all coming out of the same spot:

This branch recently fell in a storm and was living, but not all of the small twigs shown are living. Some were living but others were very brittle and appear to be past year’s growth.

This is where we get to the second most messy aspect of a sycamore tree: you can expect many of those small twigs to shed throughout the year. They’re easy enough to cleanup, but just be aware that you should expect a mature sycamore to provide you a consistent supply of small twigs, whether you like it or not.

The last point of mine is more of a minor gripe: larger sycamore tree branches that are knocked down are a good deal of work to cleanup. Now, if you have city services that offer pickup of large branches and other woody material: go ahead and just let them take care of that.

On the other hand, I’m stubborn and love free firewood so I’m comfortable making the extra effort here.

Their Large Leaves Drop Slowly Throughout Winter, Not Fall

As much as the constant dropping of small twigs and bark throughout the growing season bothers me, the real kicker is when sycamore trees refuse to drop their leaves until the coldest months arrive.

The timing might vary depending on where you live, but for our home situated in the Chicagoland area, our sycamore tree doesn’t start to shed its leaves at least until December.

Then when the leaves do start to drop, they don’t happen to all drop quickly like many other trees. Instead, the leaves of sycamore trees tend to drop over several months, and may drop their leaves well into February.

Small Seed Pods Do Shed, Though Less Prominent

The last thing to keep in mind is that sycamore trees have the ability to produce small, round seed pods. While I haven’t seen many produced by our sycamore tree, it’s possible that other trees produce more.

These seed pods are tough and are a good bit painful if you step on them, so I’d recommend that you avoid going barefoot while walking under a sycamore tree.

How to Clean Up After Your Sycamore Effectively

Here’s the deal: as much as I’ve spent this post listing my complaints about the sycamore tree, maintenance really isn’t too much work if you don’t let it pile up. I’ve found that the mess is pretty manageable if I make the effort to pick up for a bit about every other week.

The other thing to note is that it’s always good to do a quick cleanup after a storm comes through or you have a really windy day. Storms will always bring down a good amount of bark and small twigs.

With all that said, there is one saving grace in my book for the messy sycamore tree: the shed twigs and bark make for a near endless supply of great kindling. We have a fire pit in the backyard and love a good campfire, so I’ve come to appreciate the shed material as an opportunity to stock up on kindling.

One last tip for those with a mature sycamore tree on their lot: be sure not to put away your rake once all the other trees have shed their leaves in November. Nobody likes raking and dealing with leaf bags when it’s 10 degrees out, so be on the lookout for warmer days in winter as a chance to rake some leaves.

Thoughts on Siting Sycamore Trees on a Suburban Lot

If you’re considering planting a sycamore on your suburban lot, that’s great! Despite all my ranting I do think these are some pretty neat trees, there are just a few things you should keep in mind when choosing a site for your new sycamore.

First things first, if you enjoy having neatly manicured landscaping I would just avoid planting a sycamore tree entirely. The extra mess produced by a sycamore will only serve to annoy you and there are many other suitable trees.

For those of us with lower expectations for our lawns: try to avoid placing a sycamore tree near the sidewalk or a driveway. The mess from the twigs and bark will consistently need cleaning up if you’re trying to keep a clean appearance for your neighbors. I would also avoid placing sycamores near your house, as I can only assume that the shed material would clog gutters and create more work.

Last but not least: you might want to avoid using a colored mulch near your sycamore tree. The fallen twigs and bark will likely be stark in appearance compared to your colored mulch, you’ll need to consistently pick up the material if you want a manicured appearance. Arborist chips are a good alternative mulch, as the fallen twigs and bark blend in much better and you won’t have to clean your garden beds as much.

Concluding Thoughts

For as much as I may have complained and ranted about our sycamore tree, I do have to say that I appreciate its beauty. They really are unique looking trees, they just happen to be a bit messy.

If you liked this article, you may find these related articles to be an interesting read: