Plant DetailShow Menu

Platanus x acerifolia

Previously known as:

  • Platanus × hispanica
  • Platanus hybrida
Phonetic Spelling
PLAT-a-nuz a-ser-e-FO-lee-a
Description

London plane tree is a hybrid cross of American sycamore and Oriental planetree. It is a large deciduous shade tree that is generally pyramidal when young and becomes open and spreads with age. It may grow to a height of 70 to 100 feet tall and 60 to 75 feet wide. The light brown outer bark exfoliates to reveal a creamy olive inner bark. The leaves are alternate, 3 to 5 lobed, medium to dark green, and may have coarse marginal teeth. The flowers bloom in clusters in the spring and are not particularly showy. The male flowers are yellow, and the female flowers are reddish. The female flowers produce a fuzzy, rounded, bristly fruit ball that ripens to brown in October. The fruits tend to persist through the winter. The tree is a member of the Platanaceae family.

It is believed that this hybrid was developed in the 1640s by an accidental cross of the Oriental plane and American Sycamore either in Spain or London. The hybrid was recognized and categorized in 1789 by a Scottish botanist, William Aiton. It subsequently became very popular in many European cities including London because of its urban pollution tolerance.

The genus name, Platanus, originates from the Greek word, platanos, which is the oriental plane tree. The epithet, acerifolia, means like the leaves of maple or Acer.

The London plane tree prefers full sun, rich medium to wet, well-drained soils. It tolerates urban pollution, clay soil, light shade, and deer. 

This hybrid may be difficult to distinguish from its parent, the American sycamore; however, the London plane tree features deeper sinuses in its leaves, and the fruiting balls are paired and not solitary.

It is widely used in urban areas as a street tree and will do well in large yards or parks as a shade tree. In the home landscape, this tree requires much maintenance because of the excess litter produced by the twigs, leaves, bark, and fruiting balls. The roots of the tree can invade sewer pipes and lift sidewalks.

Seasons of Interest:

Bark:  Winter       Foliage:  Summer and Fall         Fruits:  Fall and Winter

Quick ID Hints:

  • 70 to 100 feet tree at maturity, pyramidal when young, and open and spreading with age
  • light brown outer bark exfoliates and reveals creamy olive inner bark
  • medium to dark green, large, sugar maple-shaped leaves, 3 to 5 lobes, triangular to ovate, rounded lobes
  • insignificant flowers in the spring, yellowish male flower, reddish female flower
  • female flower produces fruit ball, two per stalk, brown when ripens in the fall, each fruit ball is densely packed with seeds or achenes

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Generally, this tree has no major pests or diseases.  Potential insects found on this tree include borers, scales, Japanese beetles, caterpillars, and mites.  It is susceptible to canker stain which can be fatal and sycamore anthracnose.  Cultivars, such as 'Columbia' and 'Liberty,' are more disease resistant. Canker, leaf spot, and powdery mildew may also occur.

VIDEO created by Grant L. Thompson for “Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines for Landscaping” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University.

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Bloodgood'
    60 ft tall, breed for anthracnose resistance.
  • 'Columbia'
    Disease resistant, 50 ft tall
  • 'Liberty'
    Disease resistant, 50 ft tall
  • 'Metzam'
    70 ft tall, pyramidal shape, disease resistant
  • 'Morton Circle'
    Pyramidal, strong central leader, vigorous constitution, resistant to anthracnose.
  • 'Ovation'
    More broadly pyramidal to rounded habit.
  • 'Yarwood'
    Disease resistant. pyramidal habit
'Bloodgood', 'Columbia', 'Liberty', 'Metzam', 'Morton Circle', 'Ovation', 'Yarwood'
Tags:
#shade tree#rain garden#interesting bark#specimen#winter interest#high maintenance#air pollution tolerant#showy fruits#messy#deer resistant#deciduous tree#urban conditions tolerant#wet soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#recreational areas#meadows#hybrid#cultivar#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Bloodgood'
    60 ft tall, breed for anthracnose resistance.
  • 'Columbia'
    Disease resistant, 50 ft tall
  • 'Liberty'
    Disease resistant, 50 ft tall
  • 'Metzam'
    70 ft tall, pyramidal shape, disease resistant
  • 'Morton Circle'
    Pyramidal, strong central leader, vigorous constitution, resistant to anthracnose.
  • 'Ovation'
    More broadly pyramidal to rounded habit.
  • 'Yarwood'
    Disease resistant. pyramidal habit
'Bloodgood', 'Columbia', 'Liberty', 'Metzam', 'Morton Circle', 'Ovation', 'Yarwood'
Tags:
#shade tree#rain garden#interesting bark#specimen#winter interest#high maintenance#air pollution tolerant#showy fruits#messy#deer resistant#deciduous tree#urban conditions tolerant#wet soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#recreational areas#meadows#hybrid#cultivar#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Platanus
    Species:
    occidentalis × orientalis
    Family:
    Platanaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    In the past, the tree's wood was used to make ox carts and wheels. Currently, it is used for furniture, flooring, and veneer.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts birds, pollinators, and small mammals
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Shade
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 70 ft. 0 in. - 100 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 60 ft. 0 in. - 75 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Horizontal
    Open
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Achene
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The female flower produces a fruiting ball that ripens to a brown color in the fall.. There are usually two fruiting balls per stalk. The fruiting ball measures 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter and is densely packed with seeds or achenes. The balls may remain on the tree through winter. Ultimately, they disintegrate and spread their many seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are monoecious with yellowish male flowers and reddish female flowers. They grow in clusters and appear in the spring.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Ovate
    Palmatifid
    Leaf Margin:
    Crenate
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are large, 3 to 5 lobed, triangular-ovate, medium to dark green, maple-shaped, alternate, simple, and measure 6 to 7 inches long and 8 to10 inches wide. The undersides of the leaf are a paler green. The margins may have coarse teeth or entire, and the lobes are rounded. The petiole is 2 to 4 inches long. Fall color yellow-brown.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Green
    Light Brown
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Bark Description:
    The light brown bark exfoliates in irregular pieces revealing creamy olive inner bark.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Bud Scales:
    Enclosed in a single cap like scale
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Description:
    The stems are grayish-green and have a zigzag pattern. The axillary and terminal buds have a reddish color and have a single cap scale.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Meadow
    Recreational Play Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Rain Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Urban Conditions
    Problems:
    Messy