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How Deep Is the Root System of a Sycamore Tree?

By Teo Spengler
Sycamore bark has a distinctive pattern.
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Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is a large shade tree, abundant in Eastern deciduous forests. It grows fast and lives long in moist lowlands. Its roots are vigorous enough to take out a sidewalk, but do not descend very far into the ground.


Some varieties of sycamores grow to 100 feet tall with a 70-foot spread. Its bark is distinctive -- white and exfoliating -- while its broad crown offers dense shade. Like other quick-growing trees, the sycamore produces vigorous surface roots.


Sycamore is a common tree in the East, growing in every state east of the Great Plains other than Minnesota. It also flourishes in the mountains of northeastern Mexico. It serves better in the country than the city, as its shallow, aggressive root system mandates planting at least 12 feet from a sidewalk.

Root System

The sycamore is a "windfirm" tree. Its widespread, strongly branched root system keeps it firmly anchored in the soil. The majority of its roots are found no deeper than a few feet from the surface of the soil.


About the Author


Teo Spengler is a docent with the San Francisco Botanical Garden and a staff writer with Gardening Know How. She has written hundreds of gardening and plant articles for sites like eHow Gardening, Gardening Know How and Hunker. She holds a JD in law from U.C. Berkeley, an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing.