Featured Favorite: Sycamore (American Sycamore) Platanus occidentalis

About once a week you might find Trees Forever Program Manager Dustin Hinrichs 60 feet above human civilization, high above most of the tree canopy—hanging amongst the large white branches of a fully-grown Sycamore tree.


“Sycamores are very majestic,” he said. “The sycamores are particularly beautiful throughout the year. They tower above all the other trees. In the winter, their white bark sticks out among the rest, and in the summer, their big leaves make their shade ideal for a picnic spot.”


The tree’s unique beauty is easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for. The tree’s thin bark sheds as the tree gets taller—exposing the white exfoliating bark underneath, and the leaves can grow up to 15 inches wide!


“My favorite one to climb is a 80-foot-tall tree on a friend’s property east of Cedar Rapids. You feel connected with the natural world when you’re up that high and in a natural environment.”


Hinrichs has been climbing trees since he was a toddler and he says he’s not going to stop now.


“I’ve always been a climber. I climbed out of my crib when I was little. I did a lot of rock climbing when I lived in Colorado, and I’ve always climbed trees,” Hinrichs said. “I get a lot of grief from my friends for climbing trees at age 36, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop.”


Hinrichs doesn’t condone climbing that high without ropes and proper gear, but he’s a big promoter of integrating nature into everyday life to relieve stress.


 “Watching the wildlife is a lot of fun. You see a lot of hawks and eagles that high. You also see a tremendous amount of squirrels. It’s fun to watch them react to you.”


Sycamores often grow to be 60 to 100 feet tall (sometimes larger!), so it’s easy to see how a climber would appreciate these giants. However, as a certified arborist at Trees Forever, Hinrichs likes to recommend the trees for those looking for a lot of shade.  When planted in the right location, those big leaves can provide a house a lot of shade and reduce energy costs. During heavy rains, the sycamore’s tree canopy slows the downpour—therefore reducing flooding.


Whether you climb this tree’s magnificent branches or sit under its beautiful foliage, this giant creates an amazing setting to ponder and enjoy life.