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Egyptian coffin
MFA# 95.1407
Sycamores, California
MFA# 2014.6409


1) Any of several deciduous trees of the genus Platanus, especially Platanus occidentalis (Buttonwood) found in eastern North America. In Europe, they are commonly called plane trees. This tree has a pale, reddish-brown, close-grain wood that is tough and takes a fine polish. The wood is used for tool handles, rollers, flooring, furniture, crates, butcher blocks, musical instruments, and veneer. For an additional tree of the same genus, Platanus acerifoia, see London plane.

2) A type of maple tree, Acer pseudoplatanus, native to Europe and Asia. Also called Harewood, the tree has a light colored wood with a straight grain and even texture. It is used for inlays, veneer, and millwork.

3) A fig tree, Ficus sycamorus, native to Africa and southwest Asia. This tree, a species of fig, is the sycamore tree mentioned in the Bible and used by ancient Egyptians to make mummy cases.

American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Synonyms and Related Terms

1. Platanus occidentalis; American sycamore; American plane tree; western plane; buttonwood; buttonball; sycomore (Fr.)

2. Acer pseudoplatanus; Harewood; English sycamore, sycamore maple, mock plane

3. Ficus sycamorus; sycamore fig; sycomore; fig-mulberry

Physical and Chemical Properties

1. Large tree growing to 40 m with spreading branches Bark=thin gray-brown exfoliating to form light patches. Fruit=ball containing tufted aches. Density = 22.43ppcf

Paper fiber type: hardwood, diffuse porous. Using transmitted light microscopy, pulp is identified by variable-sized vessels with alternate pitting. Perforations are scalariform, typically on both ends. Appearance with Graff "C" stain: dark blue, but varies with bleaching. Common pulping method: kraft.

Additional Images

Resources and Citations

  • Alden Identification Services, Microscopic Wood Identification: Link
  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 788
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • F. H. Titmuss, Commercial Timbers of the World, The Technical Press Ltd., London, 1965 Comment: 22-43 ppcf
  • Edward Reich, Carlton J. Siegler, Consumer Goods: How to Know and Use Them, American Book Company, New York City, 1937
  • Virginia Tech Dendrology website at (Accessed Dec. 9, 2005)
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: density=24-37 ppcf (0.40-0.60 g/cm3)
  • George Savage, Art and Antique Restorer's Handbook, Rockliff Publishing Corp, London, 1954
  • Marja-Sisko Ilvessalo-Pfäffli. Fiber Atlas: Identification of Papermaking Fibers (Springer Series in Wood Science). Springer, 1995.
  • Walter Rantanen. "Fiber ID Course." Integrated Paper Services. June 2013. Lecture.

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