London Plane – a great winter tree!

London Plane Tree

On a blue-sky winter day like today, we will sometimes get questions from visitors about the funky tree near the street that has “dangling ornaments”. We know immediately they are referring to our London Plane (Platanus × acerifolia), a cross between the American Sycamore and the Oriental planetree.

Our London Plane was planted in 1995, so is still a young tree. It is beautiful in the summer months, with lovely large leaves that resemble maple leaves. (Fun fact: all sycamores, including London plane-trees have alternate branch and leaf arrangement, while all maples have opposite branching.)

But in the winter, when the leaves are gone, one can fully appreciate other features of the tree, including the lovely “dangling ornaments” as well as the great camouflage bark.

Nature's Ornament

The “dangling ornaments” are its fruits which are in aggregates of hundreds in a round ball about 2.5 cm (1″) across. Many remain on the tree into winter, but eventually fall to the ground and break apart.

The other really interesting feature is the bark, which exfoliates to reveal a colourful camouflage pattern. While this feature is present year round, it is often better appreciated in the winter.

London Plane Tree

Our London Plane is also graced with some climbing ivy, adding even more interest.

London Plane Tree

A little extra reading:

An interesting resource about the history of the London Plane is found in an article from, well, London of course! The Secret History of the London Plane Tree.

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