London Plane Tree

London Plane Tree , (Platanus x acerifolia)
The London Plane tree is a hybrid of the American and Oriental Plane tree and is particularly well adapted to urban conditions. This handsome tree needs plenty of space to grow and is suitable for large properties only. While London Plane trees tend to be as messy as their American cousins, dropping bark and fuzz balls all season, they are more resistant to disease.

London Plane trees typically grow from 70 to 100 feet tall and spread 65 to 80 feet at maturity. Growing at a medium rate, these trees will reach 35 feet or so over their first 20 years. They have a pyramidal shape in youth, but develop huge branches that open out as they age. As they grow, they shed their bark in large patches, creating mottled trunks of cream, tan, and olive green, a sort of calico bark.

American Sycamore on left; London Plane Tree on right

Plane trees have large, coarse leaves. Resembling maple leaves in shape, they have 3 to 5 sharply pointed lobes and may measure up to 6 to 8 inches long and 8 or 10 inches across. Sometimes they are broader than they are long. They have smooth, dull medium green surfaces and paler undersides with hairy veins. They emerge in late spring, most dropping in December, although a few may persist until very late winter.

Plane tree flowers emerge in late May or early June about the same time that the leaves show. They are formed in round clusters about 1 inch in diameter. A yellowish green, both male and female are inconspicuous. These clusters develop over the season into seed balls that are brown and fuzzy. About 1 to 1½-inches around, they are green at first, turning brown as the seeds within mature. These balls hang on the tree, two or three to a stalk, (American Sycamore on has one) through the fall and much of the winter before beginning to shed the seeds in the spring. They are not attractive to wildlife.

London Plane Tree Choices
Bloodgood is a popular variety of the London planetree. It is a hybrid of the American sycamore and Oriental planetree and is particularly well adapted to urban conditions. Somewhat smaller than the American sycamore, it has slightly smaller leaves and a more greenish tinge overall. It bears its fuzzy fruitballs in distinctive pairs from a common stalk. It is one of a very few tree species that will survive in selected locations within all fifty states.

Columbia or Liberty London planetree varieties are also good options for the home landscape.