Features and characters of the individual
Plane trees: facts and stories
Plane trees are often signs of bodies of water in the landscape. When their roots can easily access moisture, the trees grow very quickly and transform into a green giants in no time. This makes them useful landmarks for anyone looking for water!
In Ancient Greece, these trees were planted near springs and wells, almost like guardians. Human civilisations used to stock up on water in the shade of their foliage. In Greek mythology, visiting these sites was always done so with respect, so as not to arouse Poseidon’s anger, because the water god once transformed a young girl into a plane tree while she was fetching water. He created many water springs at the base of this plane tree, and these were protected by a terrible dragon with multiple heads. Anyone who dared to approach them had to be careful.
Did you know?
A plane tree can fuse its roots or branches together all by itself.
The process happens when branches grow too close to each other and rub together, which causes friction damage on both branches. These wounds fuse together as they heal. In this way, two or three branches at come into contact with each other can end up joining together. This creates something like a system of cables that strengthens the tree’s crown.
This can occur on a single tree, or between several trees growing next to each other. This is a natural phenomenon with plane trees. With human intervention, these can sometimes be twisted into complex shapes, like sunshades, arbours and screens.
Another fun fact: this process is sometimes possible between trees of two different species.
The benefits of plane trees
It’s hard to find a tree that’s more useful in towns and cities: it performs numerous services and conducts all of them efficiently.
Very commonly seen around cities, this familiar tree species is an all-round marvel. It is a real champion when it comes to absorbing air pollution and filtering fine particles from the air. It is very good at regulating its surrounding climate: creating a cooling effect and adding pleasant humidity. It also casts light shade. All of this is done in a gentle, discrete fashion.
Plane trees are known for their great resistance to all the stresses that arise from urban environments: air pollution, compacted soil, dryness, and drastic trimming. They are some of our best allies in making urban life more liveable, whether planted in playgrounds, public squares, or along busy avenues.
How to recognise a London plane
often a combination of three colours: grey-green, ochre-brown and cream; with large patches of scales with curved edges as they start to flake off (desquamate), creating a camouflage pattern
large (12–25cm), with indents forming 5 parts (lobes) arranged like fingers on a hand (palmately lobed); Coarsely serrated edges; fall from the tree in autumn (deciduous)
soft green in spring/summer; ochre in autumn; and no foliage in winter
achene, ball-shaped and spiky, with felty seeds like pompoms; clearly visible on the tree in winter
Specifics about this tree
The London plane is one of the most commonly planted trees along urban streets and avenues.
The striking thing about this specimen is its structure. It can be seen from far away amongst the other trees on the bank. It seems to exude a certain strength, not least because of its massive trunk.
One of its main branches stretches out horizontally towards the pond for several metres. It’s astounding to think how it manages to hold this huge ‘arm’ out like this; if you study where it meets the trunk though, you can see what looks like muscles holding it in place. While the tree was growing, it added more wood here to strengthen where the branch comes out of the trunk. If you follow the path of its branches, you’ll see that some of its branches have fused together in places (see the ‘Did You Know?’ section above). This ingenious system of support cables serves to strengthen its core structure.
This exceptional structure is what makes this a remarkable plane tree.
(Story and photos created by Priscille Cazin- Sylvolutions)
This portrait is:
- Enriched with an illustration from the Belgian Federal State Collection on permanent loan to the Meise Botanical Garden.
- An initiative of Christos Doulkeridis, Mayor of Ixelles , Audrey Lhoest, portfolio holder for Environment, Green Spaces and Planting, and Tourism and the Ixelles Communal executive