Ellis Island Sycamores

 Established in 1990

The Ellis Island sycamores were established to honor the Bicentennial celebration of the United States Constitution in 1987. The seeds from which these trees grew were collected from American sycamores growing on Ellis Island in New York.

The American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is a member of the Platanaceae or Sycamore Family, also called the Plane-tree Family.  It is one of our longest lived forest species reaching 500 years or more in some cases. The name is derived from the Greek sukomoros, a type of fig native to the Mediterranean. The leaves of the sycamore closely resemble fig leaves hence this name. It is a large tree which when mature reaches heights of 100 – 170 feet and with a broad solid girth of 3 – 14 feet in diameter.

Here in Maine, this species is native in the southern part of the state where it grows almost exclusively along rivers and in flood plain forests where its roots can always easily reach water. Its wood is not used extensively due to its brittle nature although it has been used for making butcher blocks and buttons which why a common name for the tree is buttonwood. An interesting historic document called the “Buttonwood Agreement” established the New York Stock Exchange and it was so called because it was signed under a buttonwood (sycamore) tree at 68 Wall Street, New York City, in 1792.