Sapindaceae (soapberry family) Acer

Acer pseudoplatanus sycamore maple

Acer pseudoplatanus leaf and samara. From: Howard E. McMinn & Evelyn Maino, An Illustrated Manual of Pacific Coast Trees

Look for specimens north of Frost Amphitheater toward Lasuen Street. The paired winged seeds, or samaras, as with those of other maples are fascinating objects and fun for children to drop from the top of the steps.

This tree has been known for centuries in English literature as the sycamore, so the dictionary makers will never be persuaded to change the common name, even though the tree is certainly a maple. As with colonists everywhere, the English in America applied familiar names to unfamiliar plants and animals, thus the sycamores through which the candlelight was gleaming were not maples, but plane trees. This is the typical dilemma with common names: they can be ambiguous, or even tribiguous. And there is nobody with authority to regulate the free market of words.

Name derivation: Acer – Latin for maple; pseudoplatanus – false Platanus.

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. Family name updated from Aceraceae to Sapindaceae Oct 2017 (SP).