Platanaceae (Sycamore Family)

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, in 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.

Sycamore Characteristics

The California sycamore is a spectacular tree with its mottled gray and white bark and often multiple trunks. 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 Female Racemesis 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 stems.

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.

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.male raceme If flooding occurred, some would germinate.

The seeds can be harvested by breaking the racemes apart.