Sycamore, the common name of three different species of trees. One, which is mentioned in the Bible, is actually a species of fig; another, the American sycamore, is a member of the plane tree family; and the third is a maple.
The sycamore fig is native to northern Africa and its wood was used by the ancient Egyptians to make mummy cases. The tree is sometimes cultivated for its edible fruit.
The American sycamore is also called buttonwood and American plane tree. It is native to North America and grows throughout much of the eastern half of the United States. The tree is a source of commercially important hardwood, the wood being used for such products as butcher's blocks and shipping crates.
The tree averages 60 to 120 feet (18 to 36 m) in height. It bears three- or five-lobed leaves that are shiny green above and paler beneath and 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25 cm) wide. Inconspicuous flowers of both sexes are borne on the same tree, but on different stalks. The male flowers are dark red; the female flowers are light green. The fruits grow in clusters. Each fruit is hairy and dry and contains one seed. The bark is mottled with browns, yellows, and greens against a background of white. In older trees the bark of the upper part of the trunk may be predominantly white.
The sycamore of the Bible is Ficus sycomorus of the mulberry family, Moraceae. The American sycamore is Platanus occidentalis of the plane tree family, Platanaceae.