London Plane Tree General Information
The London Plane tree is thought to be a hybrid of Platanus Orientalis (oriental plane) and Platanus Occidentalis (American sycamore) and is a very popular tree in towns, cities and parks in temperate regions. Some of the reasons it is so popular in cities like London is due to its ability to withstand air pollution, drought, compacted soil and diseases. They also provided much needed shade in the heat of the summer that builds up in cities. Many examples of these trees that you see in London are well over 200 years old, with the oldest growing in London thought to be those planted in 1789 in Berkeley Square.
Description of a London Plane Tree
The London Plane is a large, deciduous tree with a spreading crown, reaching heights of up to 98 feet tall. The leaves are shaped rather like a maple leaf and are thick and stiff textured. As the leaves are tough they can take more than a year to break down if left whole. The individual flowers are inconspicuous, with male and female flowers on separate pendulous stems. The fruit takes about six months to mature and are round and spiky. The hairs from both the fruit and leaves can cause breathing problems for people with asthma and other bronchial diseases. The bark is generally buff brown in colour and flakes off to expose new bark underneath. You will often see London Planes that have been pollarded, making their appearance vastly different than that of unpruned trees, they will be much shorter, with stunted, club like branches. This distinctive shape is very popular in streets and urban areas but requires regular maintenance by a qualified tree surgeon and the trees generally need to be repruned each year.
Pests & Diseases of a London Plane Tree
The London Plane tree is very disease tolerant, with few threats from pests and diseases but the fungal disease Massaria has recently been discovered in London. The Massaria fungi can swiftly decay branches on both unhealthy and healthy trees, making them liable to fall off. This is of great concern due to the vast number of very large trees in highly populated urban areas. Once the disease has been confirmed, the only course of action is to remove any branches that show signs of infection as quickly as possible to prevent the rapid spread of this disease and to stop the branches from falling. If you are worried that your tree has this disease, contact a professional tree surgeon for advice as soon as possible. Removal of any diseased branches may cause the tree to look misshapen, if this is of concern to you, your arborist will advise the best steps to take to maintain a nicely shaped tree.
Pruning / Pollarding of a London Plane Tree
Pollarding is a method of pruning that keeps trees smaller than they would naturally grow and is normally started when a tree reaches a certain height, thereafter yearly pollarding will restrict the tree to that height and is very suitable for the London Plane tree, with late winter being the best time of year for carrying out this work. This will usually require the services of a professional tree surgeon due to working at heights and with chainsaws.