Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 598 Platanus X acerfolia

Common Names: London planetree, London plane Family: Platanaceae (sycamore Family)
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London plane tree
The London planetree (Platanus X acerfolia) will quickly grow to impressive size - don't plant too close to structures or utility lines.


London planetree is a large street tree that looks very much like American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). This is not surprising since London planetree is the product of hybridization between the American sycamore and the oriental planetree (P. orientalis). London planetree is sometimes sold, mistakenly, under the name, P. orientalis, and often is confused with American sycamore. All three are characterized by thin, flaking bark which gives the trunks an attractive mottled appearance with irregular white, gray, brown and green patches, and by lobed, maple-like leaves. The three can be distinguished by leaf shape and fruit clusters: London planetree usually has two fruit balls on each stalk, and leaf lobes that are about as wide as they are long. American sycamore usually has single fruit balls, and leaf lobes that are wider than long. Oriental planetree has 3-5 fruit balls that hang beadlike on the stalk, and leaf lobes that are deeply incised and much longer than wide.

Like its American parent, London plane is a massive tree that can get more than 100 ft (10.7 m) tall with wide-spreading branches that can span 80 ft (24.4 m) or more. Several cultivars of London plane have been selected: 'Bloodgood' is more drought tolerant and resistant to anthracnose; 'Columbia' and 'Liberty' are resistant to powdery mildew and anthracnose; 'Pyramidalis' has branches that are more upright.


London planetree was first discovered growing in London in the 1700's and now can be found lining the streets in cities throughout the world. It is especially popular in Europe, Asia and North America. (In Australia and South Africa, they plant oriental planetree along the streets.) London planetree does not grow in the wild.


Light: Prefers full sun. Moisture: Normal water requirements. Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 - 9. Propagation: London planetree is propagated by hardwood cuttings taken in autumn or by leafy softwood cuttings taken in summer. Cultivars are sometimes propagated by grafting.
London planetree foliage
The specific name of this plant is acerfolia which is Latin for "maple leaf" and indeed the foliage of many of the maple species (Acer) looks very much like that of the London planetree.


London plane is used as a street tree in cities throughout the world. It is more tolerant of abuse and of fungus diseases than either of its parents. London plane probably is more tolerant of smoke, dust, soot, air pollution, reflected heat, pavement over the roots, wind, heavy pruning, and general abuse than any other tree, and quite possibly has been planted in more cities worldwide than any other tree.

London plane sometimes is pollarded (entire crown is severely pruned back) to create a low, dense canopy over a formal walkway or path. In large and grand formal gardens, rows of London plane sometimes are pleached (branches are interwoven) to create an elegant avenue.


London plane is used extensively along the streets in London and was one of the few trees to survive that city's coal-polluted air of the 19th century. As a street tree, some say London plane is overused. It is a little weird to travel throughout the world and see the same trees along the avenues and boulevards almost everywhere you go!


Sometimes the growing roots can clog sewers and damage sidewalks, and fallen leaves can clog drains. Don't plant any of the fast-growing planetrees or sycamore too close to buildings and utility lines!

Steve Christman 12/29/99; updated 5/14/04

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Platanus species profiled on Floridata:

Platanus X acerfolia

( London planetree, London plane )

Platanus occidentalis

( sycamore, American sycamore, buttonwood, American planetree )

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