The London plant-tree (Platanus × acerifolia) is a large deciduous tree that is quite resilient in urban conditions. This tree is a cross between two other sycamore species: Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore) and Platanus orientalis (Oriental plane).
The Latin name for this species is Platanus × acerifolia. An x in the species name highlights the fact that it is a hybrid. means that the leaves are like those of maple trees. The Platanus is the sole genus found in the Platanaceae family.
Other names sometimes seen are Platanus x hispanica and Platanus hybrida.
Besides London plane-tree, you may see London plane, hybrid plane, London plane tree or London planetree used.
This tree bears the name of the city of London because of its popular use during the Industrial Revolution. As factories spewed soot and pollutants into the air, they would settle on the local plants and make them look drab. The London plane-tree, however, has the characteristic of bark exfoliation. The soot-encrusted bark would fall off, leaving a trunk that was clean and aesthetically pleasing.
Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones
The best zones for this tree are 5 to 8.
Size & Shape
This tree reaches a mature height of 60 to 100' tall and can be up to 80' wide. At first, it has a pyramidal shape. As time passes the branches spread to form into a rounded or irregular shape.
Choose a planting spot where your London plane-tree will benefit from full sun for the best results. It is also able to tolerate a little shade.
The foliage resembles a maple leaf. They feature three to five lobes and are 4" to 9" long. During spring and summer, they are medium or dark green, shifting to yellowish-brown in the fall.
This is a monoecious tree that blooms in the spring. The female flowers are red and the male ones yellow.
A cluster of achene fruits form into a 1" ball that hangs from the branch. When it is first created it is green, gradually changing to shades of brown as it becomes mature.
One way to figure out that this is a London plane-tree and not the American sycamore is to note that it forms two or three balls per set. The American sycamore only produces one fruit ball per stem.
The London plane-tree can be used as a street and lawn tree in cities since it is highly resistant to pollution and removes it from the air. It also works well in planting strips because the roots can tolerate small spaces with soil compaction.
This tree can grow to an impressive size and will be messy from fallen fruits, twigs and bark. The roots may also cause damage to buildings, sidewalks, and driveways, so choose your location wisely.
You can help prevent anthracnose from striking your tree by choosing the 'Bloodgood', 'Liberty' or 'Columbia' varieties.
This is a very hardy species. It prefers well-drained soil that is moist, but it can tolerate some drought. It can also handle alkaline pH levels.
Propagation is carried out through cuttings or from the seeds that break off from the fruit ball in the fall and spread through the air. Grafting is used to preserve the traits of cultivated varieties.
The London plane-tree is sometimes pruned using a technique called pollarding, which is also known as topping. The ends of each main branch are pruned back, creating a smaller, thicker crown. This has the potential to weaken the tree, however, so you may wish to be more conservative with your pruning.
Another style that is used with this species is pleaching. The branches are braided together to form a living fence.
Pests & Diseases
Potential Pests Include:
- American plum borer
- Japanese beetles
- Sycamore lacebug
Possible Diseases Are:
- Bacterial leaf scorch
- Canker stain
- Powdery mildew
- Sycamore anthracnose