London Plane tree identification 

The London Plane Platanus x hispanica is probably a hybrid, between the Oriental Plane and the American Sycamore, first created in Spain or southern France in about 1650. It was introduced to Britain in about 1680. It is now common in large gardens and parks and very common on city streets where it has proved resistant to pollution.

London Plane tree identification – large maple-like leaves, spherical fruits on ‘strings’ hanging all winter, yellow/brown patchy bark. The bark is unmistakeable, pale yellow/grey patches remain after large darker flakes fall off. The fruit is spherical and similar to the Oriental Plane but larger. It is sometimes given the scientific name of Platanus x acerifolia.

London Plane tree

London Plane by the side of a city road

London Plane leaf

The leaf is large and has 5 main pointed lobes like a Maple. Each lobe has several teeth.

London Plane leaf

The underside of the leaf is covered in fine hairs. The 5 veins do not all branch from the same point at the base of the leaf like the Maples.

London Plane bark

The unmistakable bark of a young tree with darker scales falling away to reveal paler areas. Older trees may be browner.

London Plane flowers

Trees are monoecious and wind pollinated, with separate male and female flowers on the same tree. In this photo in May green male flowers are  shedding pollen. The female flowers are brown.

London Plane female flowers

Close-up of the female flowers in May. Each sphere is made up of many individual flowers. Each female flower has 6 to 9 crimson stigmas and develops into a fruit called an achene.

London Plane fruit

The fruit hangs down like this all winter. The seeds are packed round the outside of the sphere and are dispersed in the spring or early summer. Photo taken in December. The fruit of the London Plane is a dense ball of achenes. Each achene consists of one seed with a style and hair attached. The styles stick out in this close-up photo. The hairs, which aid wind dispersal, are inside the ball.

London Plane seeds

Seeds about to be dispersed from last year’s fruit in June. These are the hairs that are attached to each achene.

Tree in April

Fruit hangs from the tree all winter

The buds are small and red.

A leaf scar almost circles the bud, as shown in this photo.