London Plane - Platanus x hispanica (syn. x acerifolia)

The London Plane tree (Platanus x hispanica (syn. x acerifolia) is a very common urban tree that is extensively planted in city parks, gardens and avenues. Although it is called the London Plane this tree is not native to England. In fact it is not native to anywhere as it is a hybrid of two trees from opposite sides of the globe. Its parent trees are the American Sycamore and the Oriental Plane. The hybrid was most likely a natural result of the two parent trees being planted close to each other in Spain (thus x hispanica). It has been very widely planted in England since the late 1600´s.

The tree in the image above is of a tall London Plane that I found in the royal gardens of Aranjuez (Spain). I estimate that this tree is about 7 feet (2 meters) wide at the base and over 120 feet (35 meters) tall. It is a fine example of the fact that this tree can reach very large proportions. The tree below has a more rounded shape that is more typical of this tree when it does not have to compete for light. It is located on the grounds of the Bonneville dam east of Portland Oregon on the Columbia River.

There is a great deal of variation in the appearance of different London Plane cultivars. Some of these have a closer similarity to the American Sycamore while others are more like the Oriental Plane and variants can be found that cover the full spectrum between the two parent trees. The picture below is of the Londan Plane tree fruit which looks like a small puff ball about one inch in size.
These fruits grow in groups of 1-4 as can be seen in the image below and they stay on the tree into the winter until they disintegrate and drop their seeds.

The bark of the London Plane has a cameoflage like apearance and is constantly flaking which reveals the lighter color bark beneath. This is said to help it survive in city environments where the polution is greater.

I´ve often seen older London Planes with large lumby boles on their trunks. In the Laurelhust park of Portland Oregen there are a group of these trees that are extremely lumpy and deformed looking (below).

The leaf of the London Plane is the logo of the New York City department of Parks and Recreation.
One interesting bit of trivia about this tree is that one of its older specimens is the most valuable tree in Britain. A plane in Mayfair has been valued at £750,000.

"The survival secret is that its shiny leaves are easily washed clean by the rain and it sheds bark regularly in large patches, preventing the trees lenticels or breathing pores in the trunk becoming suffocated under a layer of sooty, sulphurous grime."


  1. Dear Dan,

    We would like to use some images yours.
    Please, could you send an e-mail to us? Send to

    Best regards,
    Claudia Cruz
    Positivo Informática

  2. Do you know how many years live that species?
    In Barcelona they pretend to cut them all because (corrupted) politicians say platan trees only live for a century and they are going to die in one or two decades. They are planning to cut the 70% of trees in the city. Mafias are investing in building even now.

  3. Some of the older specimens in England are over 250 years old and are still growing strongly. The London Plane is a large and vigorous tree. The only possible cause of death before a hundred years could be storm damage or overuse of rock salt on nearby roads during very cold winters so a century-old specimen should still be in good health!

  4. the leaves on my plane tree are turning yellow and appear to be dying. i live in southwest kansas where it is hot and dry. i water it several times a week. any info or advise. it's over 2 years old and was already over 6 feet tall when i bought it. it grew quite a bit this summer and now appears to be dying.

  5. That`s my favourite tree. It lives circa millenium.


    Platan w Koźminku. - You vote. ;)

  7. They are all through Victorian Village in Columbus, Ohio. They are old, huge, and Beautiful... But I wouldnt want to rake the leaves...

  8. I enjoyed this post. We just returned from a two-day camping trip where we stayed at a park with many, many beautiful shade trees, most of them the London Planetree. I didn't know what they were, but sketched a quick drawing of them, including the round, "velcro-covered" fruit. A search on Google led me to your post. Interesting that you included a photo from Oregon, near the Columbia River. I live in a small town on the Columbia: Hermiston, Oregon. Our camping trip was just across the river in Washington: Crow Butte State Park. I'm curious about the fruit of the planetree. When dry, with all the seeds blown away, it leaves a hard, woody kernel. It might make a good bead or seemed easy to carve with a pocket knife. I tried eating a tiny bit of the center of a young taste at all, more woody than pulpy. I wonder, though, if it can be boiled when young and eaten? The dried petiole appeared to be useable as fiber for twisting cord. Interesting tree. Thanks for the post!

  9. peter
    I think when the leaves get wet (rain)there is a subtle sweet aroma given off,by the oil of the leaf.

  10. Very tall plane trees in Park Devesa, Girona, Spain

  11. A friend of mine told me that the leaf depicted on the Canadian penny is actually the leaf of a London plane, and not a maple leaf as we have grown up to assume. Can anyone confirm ?