The London Plane Tree History & Facts

The London Plane Tree, or Platanus x acerifolia, is a hybrid tree common in urban and suburban areas. The American sycamore and the Oriental plane have contributed genetic material to this tree’s offspring.


The London Plane Tree: Introduction

The London Plane Tree is magnificent and widely planted in cities worldwide. You can find it in nearly every country. This tree, a hybrid of the American Sycamore and the Oriental Plane, is magnificent and imposing in the urban environment.

It is known for its resiliency, tolerance of pollution and illness, and exquisite beauty. The history of the London Plane Tree, as well as its characteristics, benefits, and cultural significance, will be investigated in this article.


The London Plane Tree: History

In the 16th century, a French botanist named Jean Robin was responsible for developing the London Plane Tree. He crossed the Oriental Plane, cultivated in Asia for millennia, with the American Sycamore, first introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century.

The American Sycamore tree was introduced to Europe around this time. The resulting hybrid, which was planted in the late 17th century at the Palace of Versailles, combined the tenacity of the American Sycamore with the rapid growth and gorgeous bark of the Oriental Plane. As a result, the tree was able to withstand anything.

It was not until the early eighteenth century that the London Plane Tree was introduced to England. It quickly became popular due to its resistance to disease and pollution and its ability to thrive in confined spaces that were frequently filthy and overcrowded.

It was a perfect solution for London, which had a terrible problem with air pollution due to widespread coal burning and the use of wood and coal for heating and cooking. The London Plane Tree was quickly adopted as the municipality’s official tree, and it was widely planted in various public settings such as streets, parks, and other open spaces.

There are numerous examples of the London Plane Tree in the city of London that date back hundreds of years. Although determining the exact age of a tree can be difficult, more than one London Plane Tree has claimed the title of “oldest London Plane Tree.”

The London Plane Tree, found in Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College courtyard, is one of the most well-known examples of this species. This London Plane Tree is over three hundred years old and one of the city’s oldest trees. The tree is a commanding presence in the courtyard. It has been diligently maintained over the years to ensure it remains healthy and alive for as long as possible.

The London Plane Tree in the gardens of Lambeth Palace is the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is another contender for the title of the oldest London Plane Tree. This tree is said to have been around for over three hundred years; it is also one of the world’s largest and most beautiful trees. Like the Greenwich tree, it has been meticulously cared for over the years to preserve its health and vitality.

The city may have many such ancient and illustrious London Plane Trees. These trees are essential to London’s metropolitan landscape and living reminders of the city’s rich history and culture.

The number of London Plane Trees in the city is impossible to determine due to the city’s ongoing tree-planting, tree-pruning, and tree-removal efforts. On the other hand, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of London Plane Trees are expected to populate the city.

London Plane Trees can be found in many of the city’s parks, public areas, major thoroughfares, and boulevards. The London Plane Tree is one of the city’s most common and easily recognised trees. Its existence has been intricately linked to the development of London’s personality and sense of self-identity.

Because of the tree’s exceptional resistance to pollutants and ability to thrive in the congested and ever-changing conditions of the urban environment, it is an excellent candidate for urban planting. Its vast and massive canopy provides significant shade, which helps to cool the metropolitan area, and its dense foliage traps and filters air pollutants.

Despite their abundance, London Plane Trees are regarded as an essential component of the urban ecosystem. They provide significant benefits to the city’s environment and society. Residents and visitors highly value them because they are necessary to the city’s character and identity.

It is thought that the Oriental Plane (Platanus orientalis) and the American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) collaborated to create the London Plane Tree (Platanus occidentalis). The London Plane Tree is thought to have been planted for the first time in the 17th century. It quickly gained popularity in the city after being introduced there.

The name “London Plane Tree” refers to the belief that the tree was first planted and cultivated in London specifically for the city’s metropolitan environments. It was a popular choice for planting along city streets and public parks due to the tree’s resistance to pollution and its ability to thrive in the city’s damp and chilly environment.

There is also the possibility that the term “London Plane Tree” is merely a regional identifier, implying that the tree in question is a species of Plane Tree found throughout England, including London. The tree may go by a different name in various parts of the world. In the United States of America, for example, the tree is commonly known as the “Sycamore.”

Despite the controversy surrounding its origins, the London Plane Tree has become essential to London’s urban landscape worldwide. It is an excellent asset for communities working to improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, and improve the aesthetic appeal of public spaces due to its one-of-a-kind appearance and ability to thrive in harsh urban environments.


Characteristics of The London Plane Tree

The London Plane Tree is a deciduous tree that can reach heights of 30 to 40 metres and a trunk diameter of up to three metres at its widest point. It has a large crown that is expanding and peeling bark that is grey, green, and white on the surface, exposing smooth, cream-coloured bark.

The Large leaves can have three to five lobes and a serrated edge, like the leaves of the American Sycamore tree. The blooms are unremarkable and small, and the fruit is a round, woody ball containing many very tiny seeds.

The London Plane Tree is a hardy and adaptable tree that can thrive in various environments. It is resistant to many common diseases and pests and the effects of air pollution. It can also withstand extended periods of drought and thrive in various soil types, from sandy to clay.


The London Plane Tree Seeds

Benefits of The London Plane Tree

Many factors influence the significance of the London Plane Tree. One of the essential characteristics of this tree is its ability to absorb air pollution.

The tree’s leaves and bark function as filters absorbing pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particles. This is especially important in metropolitan areas where air pollution can significantly impact the general population’s health.

The London Plane Tree has many advantages, including cleaning the air. It provides shade, which helps to cool cities and reduces the energy needed to power buildings shaded by trees.

Furthermore, it provides protection and food for various animal species, including birds, insects, and rodents. The London Plane Tree is a significant specimen in terms of aesthetics due to the widespread acclaim accorded to its towering presence and beautiful bark.


The London Plane Tree Leaves

The Importance of Culture

The London Plane Tree has a long and rich cultural history. It took its name from the city of London. The tree has served as a symbol of London for many years. Additionally, it has been used as a metaphor for tenacity and perseverance in various literary and creative works.

The novel Mrs Dalloway, written by Elizabeth Gaskell, is a well-known example of the London Plane Tree’s cultural influence. Mrs Dalloway is a novel Virginia Woolf wrote and published the same year. The protagonist of this story, set in London, is Clarissa Dalloway, a middle-aged member of London society who is about to throw a party later that night. This work of literature is well-known for its narrative style, which is like stream-of-consciousness, and for how it examines topics such as the meaning of time, memory, and identity.

The London Plane Tree, which appears several times throughout the story, represents the unchanging nature of the people living in London and the city itself. Woolf says that the tree has “survived wars, riots, and upheavals, and will outlive us” in one of the passages she writes about the tree. She also describes the tree as having “an enormous structure” and “grey bark speckled like serpent skin.”

Many works of literature and the arts mention or depict the London Plane Tree. In John Keats’ poem “To Autumn,” the tree is a metaphor for transitioning from one season to the next. “Thy hair delicately lifted by the winnowing breeze,” the tree is said to have. Painters such as Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh were inspired to create works of art depicting the tree’s striking appearance and commanding presence.


Utilisation of The Wood Produced

Although it is rarely cut down, the wood of the London Plane Tree can be used for various purposes.

One of the most common applications of wood is veneer. The tree’s distinctive peeling bark can be broken into thin layers and used as a veneer to build furniture and other items. The outside is frequently used to create the appearance of “lacewood” and gets its name from the distinctive pattern formed on the surface of the wood by irregular patches of bark.

On rare occasions, a building’s flooring and interior trim will be made from the wood of a London Plane Tree. It has a light colour, a straight grain, and a consistent texture throughout. It has a Janka hardness value of about 1,300 pounds-force, so it is typically considered tough and durable.

The London Plane Tree has served a variety of functions throughout history. In addition to its use in constructing wooden items, the tree’s bark was processed into a tannin-like substance used to manufacture leather goods. Tannin was extracted from the bark by boiling it in water, and it was then used to treat animal skins to make them stronger and more resistant to degradation.

Furthermore, the leaves of the London Plane Tree have a history of use in alternative medical practices. The leaves have astringent properties and have been used to treat various diseases, including diarrhoea, dysentery, and bleeding. The bark and seeds of the tree have been used for medicinal uses in many cultures around the world.

Even though the wood of the London Plane Tree is rarely harvested, it is helpful in a variety of contexts, including the woodworking industry and others. It is a material frequently used for veneers and other applications concerned with aesthetics due to its unusual appearance, consisting of flaking bark and a consistent texture.



The magnificent London Plane Tree has been essential to the cityscape for many years. It is popular among urban planners and residents due to its resilience, resistance to pollution and disease, and pleasing appearance.

The tree provides more than three benefits, including the cleaning of the air, the provision of shade, the preservation of habitat and the provision of food for wildlife, and the enhancement of the landscape. Furthermore, it is well-recognised as a cultural symbol because it has been depicted in art and literature for many years.

As cities continue to grow and struggle to cope with the challenges posed by pollution and climate change, the London Plane Tree will undoubtedly play an essential role in the urban environment.


Article was written by Peter Arnold.

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