Although the towering, broad-leafed California sycamore grows along dry stream beds and in low, arid canyons, the tree's presence indicates that a water source flows beneath it.
The tree, which is native to temperate and tropical zones in the northern hemisphere, needs water--lots of it--to attain its full height of between 40 and 90 feet.
A high-quality shade tree, the California sycamore (Platanus racemosa) is often planted in parks. The top of the tree is widely-branched. Its deeply lobed leaves are between 4 and 9 inches long and are smooth and light green on the top. Underneath, they are pale cream and covered with fine hairs. Large quantities of water evaporate from the leaves.
A characteristic often used to identify the California sycamore is its thin, shredding bark, which is blotched or marbled.
In the spring, the tree has reddish flowers that grow in spherical clusters, and during the summer and early fall, bears bristly, ball-like fruits about the size of walnuts.
The sycamore sheds its leaves in the fall.
Pictured here are California sycamores at Los Angeles County's Placerita Canyon Nature Center in Newhall. The dominant trees in the park's main canyon, they can be seen along the center's self-guided nature trails.