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. The flowers and fruit are unusual. The tree is monoecious and has globular male and female flower heads on separate catkins.
The leaf is large and has 5 main pointed lobes like a Maple. Each lobe has several teeth.
The bark is unmistakeable, yellow patches remain after large brown flakes fall off. This is one factor which enables Plane trees to survive highly polluted urban environments. Soot blocks the breathing pores located in bark but by shedding polluted bark the tree avoids this problem.
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. Each stigma is linked by a style to an ovary which will develop into a single seed.
Male flowers shedding yellow pollen in May.
The fruit of the London Plane is a dense ball of individual fruits called achenes. Each achene consists of one seed with a style at the top and multiple hairs attached at the base. The styles stick out in this close-up photo. The hairs, which aid wind dispersal, are inside the ball at this stage. Photo taken in December. The seeds are dispersed in the following spring or early summer.
Seeds about to be dispersed from last year’s fruit in spring. The seeds are now hidden by the hairs which have elongated since December. Like dandelion seeds they are dispersed by the wind.