do sycamore trees have balls

Sycamore trees are known for their unique and attractive flowers, seeds, and fruits. But did you know they also have a distinctive feature that sets them apart from other trees? Sycamore trees produce balls, also known as “buttonballs” or “burrs”. These balls are round and spiny, and can range in size from small to large. They provide an interesting texture to the tree, making it a popular choice for landscaping. In this article, we will explore the reasons why sycamore trees have these balls, what purpose they serve, and how to spot them on sycamore trees.Yes, sycamore trees have balls. They are round clusters of flowers called syconia that appear at the ends of the branches. These syconia are actually made up of hundreds of tiny flowers and are usually green or brownish in color, depending on the species.

What Are Sycamore Trees?

Sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) are deciduous trees native to North America. These trees can reach a height of up to 120 feet and have a spread of about 80 feet. Sycamore trees have a short, straight trunk and a broad, spreading canopy with branches that droop downwards. The bark of the sycamore tree is light gray and scaly with patches of white. The leaves are maple-like in shape and dark green on top with a silver-white underside. The flowers are small and greenish-yellow, while the fruits are small, round balls called sycamore keys or helicopters due to their spinning when they fall from the tree.

Sycamore trees prefer moist, well-drained soils but can tolerate many different soil types. These trees are tolerant of drought and wind but should be sheltered from intense sun exposure. Sycamores can also tolerate urban conditions such as pollution and compacted soils, making them an excellent choice for street tree planting. They have few pests or diseases but can be susceptible to bacterial leaf scorch in hot, dry climates.

Sycamores are an excellent choice for landscaping because they provide shade and beauty throughout the year. In spring, these trees produce small flowers that attract bees and other pollinators; in summer, they provide dense shade; in fall, their leaves turn yellow or brown before falling off; and in winter, their bare branches provide interest to the landscape. Additionally, sycamores provide food for wildlife such as birds and squirrels when their fruits drop from the tree in autumn.

Overall, sycamore trees are an attractive addition to any landscape that provides beauty throughout the year along with food for wildlife.

General Anatomy of a Sycamore Tree

The sycamore tree is a large deciduous tree that belongs to the genus Platanus. It is native to many parts of Europe, Asia, and North America. Its scientific name is Platanus occidentalis. The sycamore tree can grow up to 80 feet tall and has a spread of 50 feet wide. Its trunk can be up to 10 feet in diameter and its bark is usually grayish-brown with ridges and furrows. The leaves are broad and lobed, measuring up to 8 inches long and 4 inches wide, with a leathery texture and deep green color on top and paler green underneath.


The sycamore tree has a shallow root system that spreads out from the trunk at least as far as the canopy of its branches. This helps it absorb water from wide areas during times of drought. The roots also help anchor the tree in the soil, preventing it from being uprooted by strong winds or heavy rains.


The branches of the sycamore tree are stout and thick, often reaching several feet in diameter at maturity. They grow in an outward spreading pattern away from the trunk, forming a denser canopy than most other trees. The bark on these branches is smoother than that on the trunk, usually gray or light brown in color.


The sycamore tree produces small round fruits called samaras which are commonly known as helicopters because they spin as they fall from the tree. Each fruit contains one seed which is encased in a papery membrane that helps it disperse by wind or water. These seeds can survive for several years before germinating under favorable conditions.


The buds of the sycamore tree are cone-shaped with overlapping scales that protect them during cold weather. They are usually dark brown or black in color but may be slightly lighter when they first emerge in springtime. They contain embryonic leaves which will develop into new foliage once warmer temperatures arrive.

Are the Balls on a Sycamore Tree Fruits or Seeds?

The balls that grow on sycamore trees are actually fruits, not seeds. These fruits are called samaras, and they contain one seed each. The samaras are produced in clusters, and they have an asymmetrical shape which causes them to spin as they fall from the tree. This helps the seed to disperse more easily.

Sycamore trees are deciduous trees that are native to Europe and Asia, but have been introduced to North America as well. The leaves of the tree are large and lobed, and the bark is rough and grey with orange patches. The sycamore tree blooms in spring with yellowish-green flowers that form into samaras later in the season.

The samaras of a sycamore tree typically measure between 1-2 inches long and can be either green or brown in color. They consist of two wings that are attached at one end, with the seed at the other end. When ripe, these fruits will separate from their stems and fall from the tree like a spinning helicopter blade.

So while the balls that grow on sycamore trees may look like seeds, they’re actually fruits known as samaras which contain a single seed each. These fruits help disperse the seeds more easily so that new sycamore trees can continue to thrive for generations.

Structure of the Balls on a Sycamore Tree

Sycamore trees are known for their characteristic seed balls, which hang on the tree throughout the winter. These balls, or clusters, are made up of thousands of tiny seeds that look like helicopters, and are attached to small stems called pedicels. The pedicels are attached to a stalk called a rachis, which is what holds the seed balls in place on the branches of the tree. The seed balls themselves vary in size and shape depending on the species of sycamore tree. Some have round seed balls that are smaller than others while some have longer and more oblong shaped seed balls.

The structure of each seed ball is unique and complex. Each individual seed is made up of two parts: a winged nutlet and a tuft of hairs. The nutlet is covered with a thin, papery membrane that helps it ride along in the wind when it is released from its stem. The tuft of hairs helps to slow down its descent as it falls from the tree, allowing it to drift further away from its parent tree before taking root elsewhere.

The structure of these seed balls can also help protect them from predators. Their papery outer layer makes them difficult for birds to grasp onto with their beaks and claws, and their small size means they can easily be overlooked by other animals looking for an easy meal. Additionally, their ability to disperse far away from their parent tree helps protect them from being eaten by local wildlife who may recognize them as easy prey after seeing them so many times before.

In addition to providing protection for its seeds, the structure of sycamore seed balls also helps with dispersal over large distances. By riding along on air currents or being carried by animals or humans, these tiny helicopters can travel great distances and find new homes where they may take root and eventually grow into new trees themselves.

Are the Balls Found on Other Types of Trees?

The balls found on certain species of trees are most commonly known as galls. Galls are abnormal growths that form on certain types of trees and shrubs in response to the presence of a parasite or insect. These galls can be found on many different species, but they are most common on oak, maple, and elm trees. The galls come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be green, brown, or black in color. They can range from very small to several inches in diameter.

Galls are formed when an insect such as a gall wasp lays its eggs inside the tree’s tissue. The eggs hatch into larvae which feed upon the tree’s cells and cause an abnormal growth to occur. This growth is the gall, which provides protection for the larvae until they mature and emerge from the gall as adult insects.

Galls can also be found on other types of trees such as ash, walnut, cherry, and locust trees. The types of gall insects that create these galls vary depending on the type of tree they inhabit. In addition to gall wasps, other insects such as aphids, scale insects, and midges can also cause galls to form on trees.

In some cases, these galls may be harmless to their host tree; however, they can sometimes cause damage or weaken the tree if left untreated for too long. If you notice any strange growths forming on your trees that resemble the description above you should contact an arborist or local extension office for help with identification and treatment options.

How Do Animals Interact with the Balls on a Sycamore Tree?

Animals interact with the balls of a sycamore tree in various ways. The most common of these interactions are foraging, nesting, and dispersal. Foraging animals such as squirrels and birds often make use of the balls as food sources. The balls contain seeds which provide a nutritious snack for many species. Nesting animals may use the trees as roosting spots or even build nests within the canopy of its branches. Many species of birds, such as owls and woodpeckers, are known to nest in sycamore trees. Lastly, animals may disperse the seeds contained within the balls throughout their surrounding habitats by carrying them away in their mouths or feet or simply dropping them where they go. This helps to spread the sycamore tree’s range and ensure its survival. In this way, animals play an important role in helping to ensure that sycamore trees continue to thrive in their natural habitats.

Harvesting the Balls From a Sycamore Tree

Harvesting the balls from a sycamore tree can harm it if done incorrectly. It is important to be aware of the risk factors and avoid them when harvesting these balls. The sycamore tree’s delicate structure makes it vulnerable to excessive force or damage, so it is important to take extra care when harvesting its balls. When removing the balls, it is essential to use only gentle pressure and avoid tearing them off with any force. Additionally, any sharp tools used for harvesting should be carefully monitored in order to prevent any accidental damage.

It is also important to take into consideration the season during which one chooses to harvest the balls of this tree. Ideally, it is best to harvest during late spring or early summer when the tree’s bark and branches are still soft and malleable. Harvesting at any other time may increase the risk of damaging the tree or even killing it if done in excess or for too long a period. Finally, removing too many balls from one area may weaken that part of the tree as well as disrupt its natural growth patterns and balance.

Therefore, while harvesting these balls can provide an abundance of resources and benefits for humans, it is crucial that proper care be taken in order to ensure its sustainability and safety for both humans and trees alike.


Sycamore trees may not have balls in the traditional sense, but they do produce different types of fruit. While some sycamore trees may produce fruits that look like balls, they are actually clusters of small seeds. These seeds are protected by a thin, papery husk or seed coat. The brown seed balls that hang from sycamore branches are not actually ‘balls’ but rather a collection of seeds and seed pods. Therefore, one can conclude that sycamore trees do not have ‘balls’ as we traditionally think of them.

Despite this, sycamore trees are still an important part of the natural world and can be found in many parts of the world. They provide shade and food for wildlife and their seeds can be used to propagate new sycamore trees. Sycamores also have a long history in many cultures with a variety of folk stories and legends associated with them. For these reasons, it is clear why the sycamore tree is so beloved by so many people around the world.