Mexican Sycamore

Photo Credit:  Randy Lemmon

I recently had a question on the radio show about the Mexican Sycamore (Plantanus mexicanus).  We talked a little about it and its great attributes.  But since I hadn’t written about it in over 15 years, it sort of begged the other question – Is it even available in this market anymore? 

The answer to that last question is a big, fat YES!!! 

So, let me tell you about my first encounter with a Mexican Sycamore and why it’s still one of my top 10 trees when people come to me looking for ideas on what to plant that’s fast-growing and adaptable to our wide array of soil conditions along the Gulf Coast. 

I was introduced to the Mexican Sycamore when writing my very first book, The Golfer’s Guide to Gardening.  I put out feelers to every tree expert I knew at the time to give me their list of the 5 best trees they would recommend for a shade tree that would grow fast and be adaptable to our unique conditions.  I was surprised to see that 3 of the 5 experts had the Mexican Sycamore on their lists, because it was a tree I knew little about.

I told them I wasn’t too fond of Sycamores in general, so why would I want that in my landscape?  That’s when the attributes starting flowing in from these experts.  This tree can reach 80-100 feet high at maturity.  That can be in 10-12 years versus the 20-25 years for most other trees to reach 60 feet.  They have a unique maroon-ish color to the leaves early in spring.  Then it shows off its most marketable attribute – the silvery, velvety underside of the leaves. 

That’s the look that most people desire from the Silver Leaf Maple, which we never recommend, because it will die in under 12 years.  But now we can get that look in a tree that, if taken care of properly, will last a lifetime and can nearly double the height of most of the other highly recommended varieties of trees. 

Like American Sycamores, the fast growth can lead to an early decline, but not near as early as Silver Leaf Maples, Hybrid Poplars and Eucalyptus.  It is still a Sycamore, so they are deciduous and have a major unruly leaf drop in the fall. 

If you are interested, I know two of our endorsed advertising partners do sell them consistently – RCW Nurseries or Verdant Tree Farm  And if you want to figure out the closest place that you might find such a specimen, they are also grown commercially at Treesearch Farms here in Houston.  You can always call and ask them if they could tell you of any other nurseries, garden centers that might carry their stock.