London plane

Nuggets – bite size chunks of London


London plane

 

London plane fruit

Green is the plane-tree in the square,
The oth­er trees are brown;
They droop and pine for the coun­try air;
The plane-tree loves the town.

Amy Levy: ‘A Lon­don Plane-Tree’ (1889)

Pla­tanus x his­pan­i­ca (or hybri­da or acer­i­fo­lia) is the most char­ac­ter­is­tic tree of cen­tral Lon­don streets. It is regard­ed as being a hybrid of the Ori­en­tal plane and the Amer­i­can plane (also called the Amer­i­can sycamore) and may have evolved nat­u­ral­ly from two of the par­ent trees stand­ing close to each oth­er in Spain (hence x his­pan­i­ca).

The Lon­don plane has been wide­ly grown in Eng­land since the late 17th cen­tu­ry. It par­tic­u­lar­ly caught on in Vic­to­ri­an Lon­don because its flak­ing bark helps it shrug off pol­lu­tion. In addi­tion, it can tol­er­ate infe­ri­or and impact­ed soil, reg­u­lar prun­ing and con­di­tions of damp­ness or drought. Lon­don planes have been plen­ti­ful­ly plant­ed in many tem­per­ate cities, from Buenos Aires to Mel­bourne.

Although its indi­vid­ual char­ac­ter­is­tics may be con­fused with oth­er trees, the com­bi­na­tion of its scaly plates of grey-brown bark, maple-like leaves and spiky, ball-shaped fruits (usu­al­ly two or three per stalk, hang­ing on through win­ter) gen­er­al­ly make the Lon­don plane read­i­ly iden­ti­fi­able.

Plant­ed around 1685, a Lon­don plane in the wood­land at Barn Elms is said to be the cap­i­tal’s old­est and largest spec­i­men of the species. When last mea­sured, it was 115 feet high and 27 feet in girth. Chains have been attached between the tree’s main stems to guard against break­age under storm con­di­tions. The Brunswick Plane is reput­ed to be Lon­don’s sec­ond old­est.