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Kentucky Color - Sycamore Below Ground

A fascinating local hardwood, the Sycamore, illustrates possibility that there is as much wood in a tree underground as above, as a specimen on Crocus Creek shows. Among special attributes listed below is the the sycamore's ability to stump sprout.
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By Billy Joe Fudge, Retired State Forester
Kentucky Division of Forestry

It is often said that there is as much wood underground as there is above ground but I just don't know if that is true. However, from the looks of the Sycamore tree (in the accompanying photo), stump and root system, it could be entirely possible.


Sycamore grows to the largest diameter of any hardwood in North America. Many are on record with diameters of over 10 feet and our forefathers, including George Washington, spoke of trees measuring over 13 feet in diameter. Sycamore can also grow to more than 140 feet in height.

Sycamore is also known as American plane tree, Buttonwood and buttonball tree. It is a moderately valuable timber tree and is a desirable yard tree because of its big crown and its ability to exfoliate its older, rough brown bark to reveal a most beautiful, smooth, pure, snow white inner bark. Often the smooth inner bark will be a mottled chocolate brown, pale green and white.

Another trait of Sycamore is its ability to stump sprout. I believe I counted nine stems coming from this one stump. About all the stems sprouted at the same level which would have been near the original ground level when the tree germinated many decades ago. Erosion from Crocus Creek has eroded the creek bank to reveal much of the below ground trunk (stump) and root system.

Something to remember about trees is the bark is different below ground than above ground, as one might expect. However, when the roots are exposed and the tree remains healthy some hardwood species, and Sycamore is one, will replace the below ground root bark with above ground bark. Billy Joe Fudge


This story was posted on 2012-02-14 05:46:33
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Kentucky Color: Sycamore below ground



2012-02-14 - Along Crocus Creek - Photo by Billy Joe Fudge.
A fascinating local hardwood, the Sycamore, illustrates possibility that there is as much wood in a tree underground as above, a specimen on Crocus Creek shows. Among special attributes listed below is the the sycamore's ability to stump sprout.

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