London Plane Tree

London Plane

Common name Plane tree
Botanical Name Platanus x acerifolia
Family Platanaceae
Natural range North America/Europe/Asia
Mature height to 40m
Form Wide vase to broadly spreading
Likes Drought-tolerant, pollution-tolerant
Dislikes n/a
Where to plant Nature strip or spceimen tree in large gardens
Known for Bombproof street tree

A Tree With No Roots: The Tale of the London Plane Tree

Have you ever paused on a busy city street and admired a sturdy, broad-leafed tree providing some much-needed shade? Perhaps you’ve wondered about its identity. Well, chances are, it’s a London Plane tree, a common sight in urban areas worldwide. Intriguingly, despite its ubiquity, this tree is a bit of a botanical mystery.

The Mystery of Origin: Where Do London Plane Trees Come From?

The London Plane tree, or Platanus x acerifolia, doesn’t have a place of origin in the wild. Surprised? This tree is a unique hybrid, believed to be the progeny of the American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and the Oriental Plane tree (Platanus orientalis). You might occasionally come across Platanus digitata, also known as the Oriental Plane, recognizable by its spiky-lobed leaves, but that’s a tale for another day.

Planting the Seeds of History: When Did We Start Cultivating London Plane Trees?

London Plane’s cultivated history is a relatively recent phenomenon. It dates back to the late seventeenth century, though some historical references suggest its presence in English parks and gardens as early as the 1500s. The tree truly gained prominence during the industrial revolution, when London’s air was choked with smoke and soot. The resilient Plane trees emerged as a green beacon amidst the grey, tolerating the urban pollution and becoming city fixtures worldwide.

Love it or Loathe it: What’s the Public Perception in Australia?

In Australia, the London Plane tree induces mixed feelings. Some people admire these stalwart beings, with their characterful mottled bark and generous shade. Others, however, dread the spring season when the tree’s allergenic dust from ‘puffball’ fruits and new leaf growth fills the streets. In Melbourne, these trees constitute a whopping 70% of the inner-city tree population.

Weighing the Pros and Cons: What Makes the London Plane Tree Popular?

The London Plane tree has several attributes making it a popular choice for city planners. Its open canopy, tolerance to pruning (making it easy to grow around power lines), and the shade it provides, reducing the urban heat island effect, are all appealing qualities.

However, Melbourne’s future forest strategy is gradually phasing them out, focusing instead on tree species resilient to climate change, including Moreton Bay Figs, Jacaranda, Liquid Ambers, Lemon-Scented Gums, Queensland Bottle Trees, and Bunya Pines.

Enhancing Urban Biodiversity: Can London Plane Trees Play a Part?

A fascinating trial in Melbourne aims to increase city biodiversity by encouraging native mistletoe to grow on Plane trees. By intentionally seeding fifty London Planes with sticky mistletoe berries, researchers hope to attract more birds and insects. While these creatures aren’t particularly attracted to the London Plane trees, they have an affinity for mistletoe.

Fascinating Facts About the London Plane Tree:
  1. The London Plane tree is a hybrid and does not exist in the wild.
  2. Historically, these trees were cultivated during the industrial revolution due to their tolerance of pollution.
  3. Despite its name, the London Plane tree is not native to the UK.
Links for Further Reading:
  1. Origins and History of the London Plane Tree
  2. Melbourne’s Future Forest Strategy
  3. Biodiversity Enhancement Through Native Mistletoe
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