What Will Kill a Sycamore Tree? 6 Cities Protecting Sycamore Trees.

A sycamore tree is a good tree. The tree provides shade and food for animals, helps with air pollution, and more. But sometimes, trees are in the wrong place, like blocking your driveway or your view of the great outdoors. Hence the need to kill or cut them comes. But are you doing it the right way? Let’s answer some of your questions about it in this article.


What Will Kill a Sycamore Tree?

Several insect species and diseases can cause a sycamore tree to die.

Below are common problems that affect sycamores.

  • Aphids or Mealybugs
  • Verticillium Wilt
  • Anthracnose
  • Bacterial Wetwood
  • Canker Rot

Aphids or Mealybugs

 If you have an infestation of aphids or mealybugs, your tree could be in trouble. Both of these insects can spread fast through your entire tree and cause much damage in a short amount of time.

Verticillium Wilt

It is one of the most common problems with sycamore trees, and it affects many different types of plants, not sycamores. Verticillium albo-atrium and verticillium dahlias, two soil-borne fungi, cause the illness.

When the fungus targets the plant’s water-conducting tissues, it can cause the death of branches or even entire plants.


Anthracnose is another common problem with sycamores. This fungal disease causes brown blotches on leaves in spring. If not treated, it can cause premature leaf drops in the spring and summer.

Bacterial Wetwood

Bacterial wetwood is a common problem that affects both sycamores and other trees. The bacterial infection can result in large amounts of excess sap in the trunk and roots of the tree. Bacterial wet wood might not kill a tree. But, it can make them more susceptible to problems such as sunburn or infections caused by other organisms.

Canker Rot

Another common problem among sycamore trees is canker rot. It occurs when excess moisture allows fungi to enter cuts or wounds in the bark of a sycamore tree.

Will Ivy Kill a Sycamore Tree?

The answer is yes — if you allow English ivy to grow on your sycamore tree, it can kill it. The wood of a sycamore tree is soft, and its branches are prone to breakage. If parts of the tree get covered in ivy, this added weight increases the chance of branch breakage. During storms and heavy winds, smaller branches may get broken off by the wind, while larger branches may snap off. It is dangerous for people because parts of the tree can fall on their property. Ivy also adds shade to a tree’s canopy, which can affect photosynthesis and increase the risk of illness in the tree.

Will Copper Nails Kill Sycamore Tree?

Using a copper nail to kill a tree comes from an old myth that goes something like this: “To kill a tree, drive a copper nail into it.”

Copper nails help to kill trees in a process known as girdling. Girdling a tree involves removing a ring of bark from the trunk or main root, thus disrupting the flow of nutrients through the vascular system. It gets done by driving a series of copper nails into the tree at intervals around its circumference so that they overlap each other.

The nails must get driven at least two inches deep into the wood to ensure that they pierce both the bark and phloem layers. The phloem layer is how nutrients travel within plants, including trees is a vital part of their nutritional systems, and killing it means killing the tree.

You can learn about five care tips for your sycamore before trying to kill it.

Will Salt Kill a Sycamore Tree?

Salt can kill any plant that absorbs it. It can occur in three ways:

  • Foliar Absorption
  • Soil Absorption
  • Salt Buildup in Soil

Foliar Absorption

If the sycamore tree leaves get sprayed with salt water, the leaves will absorb the salt and die. It occurs when spraying trees with salt water from the ocean or a deicing agent spread on a road or parking lot.

Soil Absorption

Tree roots absorb salts straight from the soil. A tree’s roots can get killed by too much salt in its soil, rendering it unable to transport water to the tree. It can kill trees and shrubs if the problem is not corrected.

Salt Buildup in Soil

When the soil has too much salt, rainwater cannot soak into it. Instead, it collects on the soil’s surface or washes off, transporting salts together. The pooling and runoff of rainwater allow salts to accumulate in a soil layer near the surface. In some cases, this layer becomes so thick that no water can pass through it to get to deeper layers of soil where plant roots grow.

Will Bleach Kill a Sycamore Tree?

Some people have attempted to bleach sycamore trees by pouring bleach on their trunks or base. Using this method can be effective on other trees because the bleach kills fungi that live on their roots. Sycamore trees have such high alkaline content that it is difficult for fungi to grow on them. It makes it difficult for the bleach to be effective, though it may slow down the tree’s growth a little. There is a low chance that bleaching will kill a healthy sycamore tree. 1

If you can’t stand your sycamore anymore, don’t even think of pouring bleach on it. You might kill the tree, but not in the way you want. Bleach is a chemical that belongs in cleaning solutions, not on trees.

What Will Grow Under a Sycamore Tree?

Sycamores have dense canopies, which means there is little to no light getting through the branches. The leaves that fall are pretty thick and somewhat acidic and complicate the issue for things to grow.

The best way to get something to grow under a sycamore is to start small and work your way up. Start by planting ground cover plants or small perennials like ferns or hostas, and then let them fill in the space. You can also try your luck with annuals like petunias or marigolds.

Some larger shrubs will grow under a sycamore tree like holly and yews, but these shrubs need shade and do not thrive in direct sunlight. So they should only get planted where there is no shade from the tree.

Here are two plants that will grow under the sycamore shade.

  • Bleeding Heart
  • Foamflower

Bleeding Heart

The bleeding heart (Dicentra Formosa) is an attractive flowering plant that grows in shaded areas, including beneath sycamores. This perennial wildflower has red flowers shaped like little hearts and drooping petals that resemble fern fronds. Bleeding hearts bloom in spring, but the foliage remains attractive throughout the summer months. These plants do not need full shade and appreciate moist, rich soils with good drainage. Bleeding hearts have a low tolerance for drought conditions and do not grow well in full-sun locations.


The foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) is an attractive flowering ground cover that grows well under sycamores or other large shade trees. This herbaceous evergreen perennial features dark green foliage with white veining and white flowers that bloom

Is a Sycamore a Protected Tree?

Sycamores have protection by law in some areas. It is still vital to research your local ordinances and regulations before pruning or cutting down any tree.

Below are some cities where sycamore trees have protection.

  1. The city of Los Angeles, for example, classifies sycamores as “heritage trees” and regulates their removal, even though they’re not on the state’s list of protected species. Having a permit from the Urban Forestry Division to cut down a sycamore tree is vital. It’s also illegal to remove healthy sycamores to create a view.
  2. The sycamore is a protected tree in the state of Virginia. So, it is illegal to cut down a sycamore tree on your property.
  3. Under Indiana law, for example, it is illegal to cut down a sycamore without a permit from the city or county government.
  4. In New York City, street trees get protected by the Department of Parks and Recreation.
  5. In cities like Columbus, Ohio, the Division of Forestry regulates trees on private property and public right-of-way.
  6. Douglas County, Georgia, for example, one cannot even trim a street tree without permission from the county forester.

How Long Does a Sycamore Last?

The general lifespan of an American sycamore tree is about 75 to 200 years. But, the range of the lifespan can reach 500 or more. The lifespan of a sycamore tree depends on its environment and location. Learn more facts about the American sycamore tree.

The following factors play a role in determining the life expectancy of a sycamore tree:

  • Moderate climate
  • Soil type
  • Availability of water

Moderate climate

Sycamore trees can withstand warm and moderate climates with ease. But, cold can damage these trees and reduce their life span.

Soil type

Sycamore trees are not very particular about the soil type. They grow best in moist and well-drained soil but can adapt to other environments.

Availability of water

Sycamore trees need plenty of water for growth and maintenance. Planting them in areas that do not receive enough rainfall will reduce their lifespan.

Are Sycamore Trees a Problem?

Here are some advantages of the sycamore tree.

  • Fast growth rate
  • High tolerance for air pollution
  • Good drought tolerance
  • Low maintenance

Fast growth rate

Sycamores can grow 2 feet per year until they reach their mature height (60-80 feet).

High tolerance for air pollution

Sycamores can tolerate much more air pollution than other species. The sycamore’s resistance to air pollution is due to its high tolerance to ozone. The resistance of some other species to pollutants has been attributed to an overproduction of phytochelatins, secondary metabolites present in most plants, which are similar in structure and function to metallothioneins. Phytochelatins have been found to help chelate metal ions such as copper and zinc that plants absorb from contaminated soils.

Good drought tolerance

While they will grow faster with occasional irrigation during dry spells, they can survive long droughts.

Sycamore trees are some of our most drought-tolerant trees, especially when young. They’re actually one of our best choices for urban gardens because their shallow root systems aren’t as prone to water damage, and their fast growth rate keeps them from outgrowing their space as other species might. Another bonus is that they produce a good amount of oxygen.

Although they do a good job of tolerating drought, they still prefer moist soils and don’t do well in poorly-drained areas. Their root systems are also shallow, which makes them more susceptible to water damage than other species.

Low maintenance

Lawnmowers and weed whackers will not harm them, they will not drop messy fruits as live oaks do, and they are not prone to pest problems.

Read more on why you should plant a sycamore tree.

Citations Used in this Article

  1. How To Kill A Sycamore Tree (gardenguider.com)