Plane, London (Platanus x hispanica)

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London plane is planted for its ability to adapt to urban conditions and its resistance to pollution.

Common name: London plane

Scientific name: Platanus x hispanica
Family: Platanaceae

UK provenance: non-native

Interesting fact: the origin of this tree is not quite known. It is thought to be a hybrid of the oriental plane and the American plane, and was brought here from Spain in the 17th century.

What does London plane look like?

Overview: can grow to 35m and live for several hundred years. The bark is olive green to grey, with large scaly plates that peel off to reveal a creamy bark beneath. Young twigs are green-brown.

Leaves: sycamore-like leaves are leathery and thick, with five triangular lobes. They turn a rich orange-yellow before falling in autumn. 

Flowers: London plane is monoecious, meaning the ball-shaped male and female flowers are found on the same tree, although on different stems.

Fruits: after pollination by wind, female flowers develop into spiky fruits, comprising a dense cluster of seeds with stiff hairs, which aid dispersal by wind. The fruits slowly break up over winter to release their seeds.

Look out for: the multi coloured bark has a camouflage style pattern.

Could be confused with: sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), however the edges, or margins, of London plane leaves are not serrated.

Identified in winter by: the catkins are spherical and hang down from the tree on long stems. The leaf buds are round and have two to three scales with a leaf scar almost surrounding the bud.

Where to find London plane

The most common tree in London, London plane copes well with pollution and compacted soils and is often found growing on streets and city parks.

Value to wildlife

Very little wildlife is associated with London plane, although the seeds may be eaten by grey squirrels.

Mythology and symbolism

Because it is a non-native hybrid, there is no mythology and folklore associated with London plane.

How we use London plane

The tree is widely planted as a street tree in large cities, particularly London. The wood used to be popular for making veneers, as it is an attractive golden brown colour with dark brown flecks. 

Threats

London plane may be susceptible to Plane anthracnose, which causes dieback in leaves and shoots.

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