Flood flows and population dynamics of Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii)

Juliet Stromberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Platanus wrightii is a pioneer tree species of warm-temperate riparian deciduous forests in southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Dendrochronological analysis of populations in central and southern Arizona indicated that P. wrightii seedlings establish episodically. Long intervals (10-40 years) elapsed with no apparent establishment. Seedling establishment years were positively associated with winter flood size and annual flow rate, and weakly negatively associated with summer flood size. Large floods sometimes preceded multi-year establishment waves. During the past 2 decades an abundance of winter floods and very wet springs has allowed frequent establishment of P. wrightii. For example, plants established at many sites during the winter flood years of 1993 and 1995, particularly along channels scoured and widened by flood waters. Platanus wrightii also reproduces asexually. Ramets were more abundant than genets in all populations, and ramets established more frequently than seedlings. Ramet density (mean number per genet) varied widely between populations, from 2 (Huachuca Canyon) to 9 (Haunted Canyon), and increased with tree size within 4 of 9 populations. Population size structure varied across a gradient of watershed area. Populations along streams draining the largest watersheds had an abundance of small trees (mean trunk diameter of < 10 cm), while those at headwater sites were dominated by mature trees with trunk diameter ≤190 cm and age ≤235 years. These observations suggest that population structure of P. wrightii is influenced by temporal as well as spatial differences in stream flow regimes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-187
Number of pages18
JournalWestern North American Naturalist
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Age structure
  • Floods
  • Platanus wrightii
  • Ramet
  • Riparian habitat
  • Seedling establishment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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