Herb: Sycamore

Latin name: Acer pseudoplatanus

Synonyms: Acer pseudo-platanus

Family: Aceraceae (Maple Family)

Medicinal use of Sycamore:

The bark has mild astringent properties and has been used to make a wash for skin problems and an eyewash for sore eyes. The inner bark of the tree, containing the sweet sap, can be used as a dressing for wounds.

Description of the plant:


30 m
(98 feet)

to June

Habitat of the herb:

Found in woodland, hedgerows etc. in Britain, in all but very poor soils.

Edible parts of Sycamore:

The sap contains sugar and can be used as a drink or be concentrated into a syrup by boiling off the water. The syrup is used as a sweetener on many foods. It can be harvested in late winter but is not produced in economic quantities. About 25 grams of sugar is obtained from a litre of the sap. The sap can also be used to make a wine. The flow is best on warm sunny days following a frost. The best sap production comes from cold-winter areas with continental climates. The keys of the developing seeds have a sweet exudation on them and this is often sucked by children. The leaves can be wrapped round food such as buns when baking them and they impart a sweet flavour.

Other uses of the herb:

The trees are fast-growing and make a good windbreak for exposed and maritime areas. They are often used in shelterbelt plantings. This species usually self-sows freely and is often the first tree to invade disused farmland, cleared woodland etc. Its ability to tolerate difficult environments make it a good pioneer species for re-establishing woodlands. When grown in Britain it is usually gradually displaced over a period of 200 years or more by native species until it becomes just a minor component of the woodland. The leaves are packed around apples, rootcrops etc to help preserve them. Wood - very hard, heavy, elastic, easy to work, fairly resistant to insects. Used for carving, small domestic items, veneer etc. It is a good fuel and also makes a good charcoal that can be used as a fuel.

Propagation of Sycamore:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, it usually germinates in the following spring. Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours and then stratify for 2 - 4 months at 1 - 8C. It can be slow to germinate. Seed should not be dried below 35% moisture. The seed can be harvested "green" (when it has fully developed but before it has dried and produced any germination inhibitors) and sown immediately. It should germinate in late winter. If the seed is harvested too soon it will produce very weak plants or no plants at all. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on until they are 20cm or more tall before planting them out in their permanent positions. Layering, which takes about 12 months, is successful with most species in this genus. Cuttings of young shoots in June or July. The cuttings should have 2 - 3 pairs of leaves, plus one pair of buds at the base. Remove a very thin slice of bark at the base of the cutting, rooting is improved if a rooting hormone is used. The rooted cuttings must show new growth during the summer before being potted up otherwise they are unlikely to survive the winter. Cultivars can be budded onto rootstocks of the species. Any grafting is best carried out in September rather than February.

Cultivation of the herb:

Found in woodland, hedgerows etc. in Britain, in all but very poor soils.

Known hazards of Acer pseudoplatanus:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.