Skip to content

Wildlife Spotlight: California Sycamores

Picture

​Think of the trees in a child’s drawing: full, leafy green canopies over thick, sturdy trunks. The California sycamore is a living example of this classic representation. Sycamores, a common sight on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, grow in canyons and riparian habitats, and are sometimes employed for urban landscapes. The sycamore is recognizable for its mottled bark, which gives it the appearance of white and brown patches. Sycamore bark is not as elastic as the bark of other trees, which typically stretches to accommodate a tree’s growth; the rigidity of sycamore bark results in the bark sloughing off in patches. Sycamores can grow to well over 100 feet in height and develop long, leafy green branch spans. 

Picture

​Varieties of sycamore are nearly ubiquitous in American cities, prized for their shade, size, and ability to bring a natural feel to even the busiest city block. But sycamores in Southern California currently face threats ranging from the stresses of drought and climate change to the ravages of invasive pests, including the polyphagous shot hole borer beetle, which deposits a lethal fungus in the trees it infests. Scientists are hard at work to combat these forces and preserve the California sycamore population, as well as other threatened species. These trees have an extraordinarily beneficial impact on the environment and on human quality of life, and land restorers are doing their best to save them.