London Plane (Platanus x hispanica)

Although it is the most common tree in London, it is considered that London Plane is not native to England. This hybrid is acknowledged as a natural result of two trees being planted close to each other in Spain hence its name x hispanica. The scientific name Platanus derives from the Greek word ‘plays’ which means broad. Plane trees not only have extremely large, domed crowns but also have very large broad leaves.

This understated giant has a solid trunk and robust branches, which allow it to grow into large often gigantic trees, reaching 35m in height even in an urban environment. Its characteristic smooth trunk is recognisable by its peeling grey bark which ‘flakes’ off in plates to reveal the younger, yellowish, sometimes green bark beneath giving it a camouflage like effect. This along with its large leaves and bauble like fruits (which are present from winter to spring), make this somewhat common tree, more intriguing. They also provide the tree with much desired year round interest.

 

Photo credit: Paul Hunter

Its secrets to being a successful giant are the same things that gives it a unique character. The large leaves are so shiny that they are easily washed clean by the rain and its camouflage bark, is more than just an accidental quality. It has this pattern because the bark which breaks away in large flakes helps the tree cleanse itself of pollutants. London Planes require little root space, can survive in most soils and will flourish despite hard pruning.

Interestingly it is a London Plane that hit the headlines in 2009 when one of the older specimens in Mayfair London was valued at 750k. It's considered Britains most valuable tree.

We believe the poem by Amy Levy below sums it up;

 

A LONDON PLANE-TREE

 

Green is the plane-tree in the square,

The other trees are brown;

 

They droop and pine for country air;

The plane-tree loves the town.

 

Here, from my garret-pane, I mark

The plane-tree bud and blow,

 

Shed her recuperative bark,

 

And spread her shade below.

Among her branches, in and out,

The city breezes play;

 

The dun fog wraps her round about;

 

Above, the smoke curls grey.

Others the country take for choice,

 

And hold the town in scorn;

 

But she has listened to the voice

On city breezes borne.

 

Where to find it?

As well as it being a familiar sight in our cities and streetscapes, the species grows in large numbers all over Europe, in Australia, and North & South America. The City of New York, Parks Department uses the leaf as its symbol. On the Connswater Community Greenway we hope they have been planted for future acclaim. For now you can look at the tree in its infancy along Cregagh Road at the Bus Stop or shops.

Be Part of it…

If you spot this momentous tree on your walk please do send us your photos!