Here in the city that gave this hybrid tree its name, the London plane accounts for more than half of all trees planted. It is an ideal city plant as it copes with pruning, drought and impacted soil, and gets rid of pollution by shedding plates of bark.
London plane (Platanus x hispanica)
- Scientific name: Platanus x hispanica
- Family: Platanaceae
- Place of origin: hybrid origin
- Conservation status: Not Evaluated
- Date planted: c. 1770s
- Height: 30 m
About Kew's London plane trees
Kew has 52 London planes in the Living Collection, but you probably passed more of these trees on the streets on your way to the Gardens. Kew's oldest is in the Rhododendron Dell and, dating from around the 1770s, is as old as any you'll see in London. One of the parents of these hybrid is the Oriental plane – Kew has a fine specimen of this which was planted in 1762 and stands next to the Orangery.
Take a closer look
- In this species, the base of the each leaf stalk appears slightly swollen – this is actually a cup that sits over a new bud, protecting it from disease and insects for an entire season.
- Notice the bark's camouflage pattern. Over time, great plates of bark fall off revealing the colours in the fresh wood beneath. This removes pollutants and keeps the tree healthy.
The origins of this hybrid are unclear. Some authorities describe it as a variety of the eastern plane (Platanus orientalis), while others believe it to be a hybrid between this and the western plane (Platanus occidentalis). It may have occurred naturally in Britain or been brought here from Spain. The tree first appeared in Britain around the middle of the 17th century as an ornamental. A tall, wide tree, its maple-like leaves lie horizontally, making it perfect for providing shade.
Cultivation and uses
The London plane is used extensively as an ornamental tree both in its namesake city and many others. Its distinctive, brown spiky seed balls hang on its branches throughout the winter, like nature's forgotten Christmas baubles. In spring, they release seeds which, combined with fluff from the new spring leaves, cause havoc for allergy sufferers.
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