California Sycamore Habitat
There are approximately 40
mature California sycamores (Planatus racemosa) within the
Panorama Vista Preserve. The greatest concentration of sycamores
is in the southwest section of the Preserve between the Kern River and
the Carrier Canal. The Carrier Canal is unlined and carries water
throughout the year which presumably improves the ground water
conditions on that side of the river.
California Sycamores require flooding
for natural regeneration.
Because there has been no flooding in the Kern River floodplain
since the completion of the Lake Isabella Dam in 1952,
there no longer is natural regeneration of California sycamores in the
Panorama Vista Preserve.
On the north side of the River,
particular, there are large barren
areas that once were thickly vegetated (according to aerial photos from
1937). Agricultural and oil operations along with lack of flooding and
a lowered water table contributed to this loss of vegetation.
The Kern River Corridor Endowment is
beginning to restore some of the
sycamore habitat on the north side as well as attempting to preserve
the gene pool of trees that no longer are replacing themselves in
Panorama Vista. We are currently growing California sycamores from seed
collected from trees within the preserve and have successfully
transplanted about 25 of these on the north side of the river
just south of the River Ranches development.
The California sycamore is a
spectacular tree with its mottled gray
and white bark and often multiple trunks. Living to 200 or
more years, it comes to have a very large profile both in height and
width. It is deciduous and in late fall the foliage of the
California Sycamores turns a bronze color before it falls.
The leaves then form a springy thick mulch around the base of the tree.
In late winter the sycamores begin to
leaf out and separate male and
female flowers form in balls (racemes) consisting of many separate
small flowers. The hanging of
California sycamore racemes in strings of generally 5 or
more balls is a characteristic
that readily distinguishes California
sycamores from eastern and eastern-asiatic hybrids known as London
Planes, which have fewer racemes which hang in singles from their
The California sycamore female racemes
in bloom are a striking rich
rose color. The male racemes, by contrast, are a light
color and soon wither, shatter, and fall to the ground (as in the photo
After the flowers are pollinated and
the clusters of seeds develop, the
racemes take on a light green color. Eventually the racemes turn
a tan color. The seeds mature by midwinter and racemes fall from
the tree throughout the winter.
occurred, some would
The seeds can be harvested by breaking
the racemes apart.