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How Deep Is the Root System of a Sycamore Tree?

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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.

Deep Is The Root System Of A Sycamore Tree?

Many factors affect root growth, including soil type, water availability and planting location. If a sycamore has ample space, the roots will spread laterally. Surface roots can extend as far as the spread of the canopy, which in mature trees is typically 50 to 70 feet across. The sycamore’s aggressive root system can pose challenges for homeowners, as surface roots can lift sidewalks or driveways and create obstacles to mowing. The best way to prevent this problem is to ensure that sycamore trees are planted at least 25 feet away from sidewalks or driveways if possible or 12 feet from the curb for street tree plantings. Roots should be cut only in late winter or early spring before buds begin to appear, and no more than 25 percent of the root system should be cut in one season.

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