Plane trees of London

Platanus x acerifolia 'London'

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Foliage of London Form

Foliage of Platanus 'London'

This is the tree originally named 'London plane'. It forms a large proportion of the older trees of inner London, but is found rather less frequently elsewhere.

The name 'London' is used here to refer to a single clone or a group of very similar clones (previously called the 'London Form' on this website). The reasoning for the use of this name is given on the botany page on this website. The many other forms of plane trees in London, which often form the majority in the suburbs, would be described under P. x acerifolia, commonly called 'London plane', and where appropriate under other cultivar names.

Description

Tree - This is usually seen as a large strong growing tree, usually with a single clear trunk to some height. It is likely that this clear trunk is the result of formative pruning; very similar trees can be found that are branched from a quite low point.

Bark - This flakes in patches on trunk and older branches, leaving a dappled trunk, as with other planes. Persistent bark is rare.

Crown - Branches are sinuous, as are the smaller shoots, producing a crown with a characteristic lacy winter appearance. The tips of side branches may droop. By contrast, in 'Pyramidalis' the branches tend to be straight, and do not droop at the tips. 'Augustine Henry' and many other plane trees have somewhat sinuous branches, not as contorted as in the London plane.

Shoot and young leaves - These are covered in down as in all planes, shed on mature tissue. They are moderately affected by anthracnose and many early leaves are damaged by this in London.

Leaf shape - Leaves commonly come with 5 palmate lobes, sometimes with 3 or 7 lobes. The central lobe is usually as long or slightly longer than wide, and is toothed. The base of leaf blade is varied, truncate to cordate but on a typical summer leaf it is cordate. Down is retained on vein axils on the underside of leaves. The leaf size on typical leaves can be 15 to 19cm wide and 20 to 25cm long.

Leaf colour - The colour is a medium green above, paler below, somewhat glossy.

Axillary buds - These are conical or pointed, typically 5-6mm across at the base, 9-11mm long, bluntly pointed. They turn reddish purple through the winter.

Fruits - The flowers and fruit are borne in groups of 1-4 on a stem on short lateral growths. The fruits can be up to 35 mm across.

Appearance

In winter because of its sinuous branches, clear trunk, and lacy crown outline, it is a more elegant and better-looking tree than some of the other common forms in London, especially the common P. 'Pyramidalis'.

Good specimens; Ravensbury Park, Morden, by the river Wandle, two huge specimens; Hyde Park, many trees by the South Carriage Road and by Park Lane; Kenwood House, Hampstead, between the cafeteria and the lake.

Reference specimen

Bean did not identify a single tree that can now be used for a reference; hence, given the occurrence of similar clones, the precise clone that he was discussing may be in doubt. However, he has identified the double avenue (the Broad Walk) in Green Park as being planted with a mixture of both the variety 'Pyramidalis', and this form. The 'Pyramidalis' trees in this collection can be clearly identified; the remaining trees can therefore be used as the reference, although there is still the possibility that these are a mixture of similar clones.

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23-July-2009