A cross between the Oriental Planetree and American Sycamore, the London Planetree was first recorded growing in London in 1663. It takes its common name from this fact and also that it is the primary street and park tree in London. London is not alone in its heavy usage of the London Planetree, however. It is planted by the millions in Zones 4 to 9 in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
London Planes are tough trees that are highly resistant to urban stressors, salt damage and the anthracnose disease that plagues its native cousin the American Sycamore. They prefer full sun to partial shade and perform best in well drained rich soils, but can tolerate alkaline, moist and even droughty soils.
Highly tolerant of poor soils and pollutants found in urban conditions, the London Planetree is a favorite of cities. This is also the best place for them as someone else get to clean up after them. Leaves, twigs and bark are shed all summer and leaves and fruits are shed all fall and winter.
Wide spreading and majestic, 40-60 feet wide, the London Plane will attain heights of 60 to 90 feet. The branches are smooth and muscular, while the trunk is constantly shedding its flaking bark exposing its olive, cream and brown patches. Leaves are pale green resembling those of a maple only larger, up to 10 inches across. The underside of the leaves contain a heavy, choking dust that is loathed by all allergy sufferers. The spherical fruits, called syncarps, are usually borne in twos, but may come singly or in threes. Ripening in October and persisting into late winter, they are hardy weapons for children’s games.