London planes (Platanus Acerifolia) are a group of related species in the Platanus, the sole extant genus in the family Platanaceae. The London plane is native to northern Europe and southwest Asia. It is a hybrid plant between the American sycamore and the Oriental plane tree. 1
London plane trees are one of the most common street trees in London, and they are part of a long tradition. They got planted on London streets since at least 1735 when John Evelyn noted in his diary that “the new way” between Newgate and Ludgate was “flanked with plane trees.” The first London plane tree got planted on Tower Hill in 1737 by William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (1683-1766), an English statesman who served twice as Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Keep reading and learn more about the tree.
London Plane Growth Rate
The average growth rate for London Planes is around 1ft per year for the first few years, but this will slow down as the tree matures.
The London Plane tree needs full sun, well-drained soil, and moderate water to thrive. One can plant the tree in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6-9, but it will need winter protection in colder areas.
The London Plane grows best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6-9 (26-30°F) but maybe hardy as far north as Zone 5 (-20°F). In Zone 5 or warmer climates, winter protection does not matter. In colder zones, you’ll need to wrap your tree in burlap or similar material to protect it from the elements. It will allow the tree’s roots to breathe but keeps the cold air from around them during freezing temperatures.
Life Span of the London Plane
The life span of London plane trees can reach up to 200 years. It is why they get considered one of the oldest living tree species. Their growth rate is so fast as it matures, but they can live for a long time.
The life span of the London plane tree depends on growing conditions and location. Trees growing in urban areas tend to live longer than those planted in rural areas due to less stress from disease and pests.
How to Maintain London Plane Trees
London plane trees need water to thrive. The soil should be moist during the growing season, from April through October. If you have trouble keeping the soil moist enough, consider using a soaker hose or drip irrigation system. These will allow you to get water directly into the tree’s root without worrying about over-watering it.
London plane trees also need fertilizer to grow properly and produce fruit (if applicable). When new growth starts forming on your London plane tree, use a fertilizer with a high nitrogen percentage (such as 10-10-10). Apply it at half strength every two weeks until midsummer arrives. Once midsummer hits, switch over equal parts blend of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (such as 16-16-16) for another two weeks before changing over again until fall arrives.
It is also vital for maintaining a healthy plane tree. It helps keep the tree from becoming too large for its space and ensures there isn’t any dead wood on the branches that could become infected.
Read to learn more about planting sycamore seeds.
Heights of London Plane
London plane trees are a popular choice for urban landscaping and get often used as street trees. The tree is relatively fast-growing, reaching up to 12 m (40 ft) tall with a spread of 10 m (33 ft). It prefers full sun and well-drained soil but will tolerate partial shade.
Planting London plane trees in the spring or fall is recommended. They should get planted as deep as 40 cm (16 inches) with an additional 30 cm (12 inches) of mulch applied around the tree’s base.
The Flowering of the London Plane
The flowers get produced in dense clusters 2–4 cm in diameter; each flower is small, with five sepals, five petals, and ten stamens. The trees flower annually in late May or early June.
The reason for this annual event is still not fully understood. It may be due to environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, and air pollution levels, or it may get linked to the tree’s age.
Uses of the London Plane
The London plane tree can serve as:
- A shade tree
- An ornamental tree
A shade tree
The London tree provides plenty of shade for homes and businesses during the summer months when temperatures rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). The leaves also protect against soil erosion when planted near water bodies like rivers or streams.
An ornamental tree
The London plane tree often gets used as an ornamental specimen due to its beautiful appearance. When left to grow wild in natural settings, its massive trunk and low branches spread out like a weeping willow tree.
The Root System of the London Plane
The London plane has a shallow, expansive root system that grows outward in all directions from the trunk. Its roots can extend as far as 100 feet from the trunk and penetrate deep into the soil to search for water.
The tree’s root system has two different parts:
- An upper layer
- A lower layer
An upper layer
The upper portion provides anchorage for the tree against wind and other forces.
A lower layer
It extends downward through the subsoil. The lower portion provides stability by anchoring it against soil erosion from heavy rains or strong winds.
The London Plane tree has an extremely high tolerance for salt-water conditions, ideal for planting in coastal areas. It also has resistance to both drought and disease. It makes an excellent choice for use as street trees in urban areas with little rain or moisture available to grow them well.
Pests and Threats of London Plane
London planes are susceptible to many pests like:
- Scale Insects
- Bark beetles
They feed on the leaves of the London plane, causing them to turn brown and fall off prematurely. They can also cause damage to young twigs by chewing into them and creating holes in the bark. Then, they use the holes to enter the tree’s interior, where they pupate, eventually emerging as adult moths that lay eggs on new leaves. If you notice these pests on your London plane trees, it is vital to treat them as soon as possible so that they do not spread throughout your entire grove or garden bed.
These sap-sucking insects can cause leaves to curl up, making the tree look sickly. They also secrete honeydew, which attracts ants and sooty mold fungus.
They come in many different colors, but usually have a pearlescent appearance and produce a sweet sticky substance called honeydew that attracts ants and other bugs. The easiest way to tell if your tree has aphids is to shake the branches and see if any of the leaves fall off because of aphid infestation. If you do find that your tree has aphids on it then the best course of action would be to hire a company that specializes in pest control or pruning services to take care of the problem for you.
The larvae of bark beetles bore into the trunk of a plane tree and feed on its sapwood (the inner layer of wood). The most common species affecting London planes in North America is the Asian long-horned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), which arrived in New York City in 1996. This insect has since spread throughout the eastern U.S., with infestations reported as far west as Chicago and Florida.
Other species of bark beetle that affect plane trees include the European elm bark beetle (Scolytus multistriatus). It is native to Europe but not found in North America.
A common threat known to the London plane is the cranker disease.
Canker diseases come from bacteria or fungi that invade and feed on the tree’s inner bark, which is the protective layer that covers the sapwood.
In addition to being unsightly, these cankers can lead to other more serious health issues for the tree if not treated quickly enough. In addition to being unsightly, these cankers can lead to other more serious health issues for the tree if not treated quickly enough.
The earliest symptom of a canker disease is a sunken or depressed scar at the base of the lesion. The earliest symptom of a canker disease is a sunken or depressed scar at the base of the lesion. Treatment includes removing infected branches or entire trees in order to stop the further spread of fungus and prevent contamination of nearby plants and areas.
Treatment includes removing infected branches or entire trees in order to stop the further spread of fungus and prevent contamination of nearby plants and areas. If left untreated, canker diseases could eventually kill an infected tree.
Barks of the London Plane
The bark of the London Plane is greyish brown in color, smooth and shiny when young but becoming more fissured with age. Young trees have smooth white bark that turns gray with age; older specimens often have several shades within their trunks.
The bark is a natural exfoliant used to remove dead skin cells and help unblock pores. It also helps reduce stretch marks and cellulite by improving blood circulation and stimulating lymphatic drainage. One can apply the bark directly to the skin or added to bathwater for a relaxing soak.
Fruits of the London Plane
The London plane tree (Platanus x acerifolia) produces purple-pink flowers that give way to round green fruits that turn brown as they ripen. When ripe, these fruits contain three seeds that resemble peas inside pods that open when they mature. It allows them to float away on wind currents or water currents if dropped into rivers or lakes.
The fruit of the tree is edible when cooked or dried. But it is not usually eaten fresh because the taste is not very appealing.
It sometimes serves as a herbal remedy to treat:
Note that there is not enough evidence to confirm this claim.
Woods of the London Plane
The wood of the London plane has value for its hardness, durability, and ease of working with power tools. It makes it ideal for use as flooring in high-traffic areas such as hallways and entrances to buildings. The wood can also help make doors, windowsills, or moldings around doors or windows.
The sapwood of the tree ranges from white to light brown in color, while the heartwood is reddish-brown with darker streaks throughout the grain pattern. The wood has a coarse texture with prominent growth rings visible on both surfaces of each plank or board cut from the trunk or branches of this tree species.
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Citations Used in this Article
- Platanus x acerifolia (ncsu.edu)