This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
One need not go far into the country in order to see the Plane. Its virtue as a smoke-proof tree has now been well tested by the governing authorities in large towns, and it is freely planted in recreation grounds and by the sides of broad thoroughfares. In London it must now be about the commonest tree; and some of the specimens grown in the west-end squares are very fine. Several of the London Planes have become quite "lions," to be seen by all visitors who "do" the Metropolis; such is the individual that overtops the old-fashioned houses at the corner of Wood Street, Cheapside. More celebrated, perhaps, is the Stationers' Hall Court tree, which, though only about sixty-five years old, is so important a feature of that corner of the City that, on the rumour that it was to be cut down a few years since to allow of certain improvements in the court, the denizens of Paternoster Row and the precincts were up in arms, and evinced such indignation that the building plans of the Stationers' Company were modified, and the tree spared to delight the sparrows of the vicinity, and to bring thoughts of the country into the hearts of the publishing and bookselling fraternity who daily pour through the court.
In spite of its apparent enjoyment of London smoke and fog the plane-tree is not even a Britisher. Its introduction to England has been credited to Francis Bacon, but Loudon declares it was in our gardens prior to 1548 - thirteen years before the birth of the Lord Keeper.
The leaves of the Plane are very similar to those of the Sycamore and False-Sycamore (see page 134), but one feature will serve to identify it at any season - the pale yellow patches on the trunk of the Plane caused by its constant shedding of flakes of bark. In the autumn, too, there is a striking contrast between the winged samaras of Acer and the ball-fruits of Platanus. Acer, again, has the leaves opposite, whilst in Platanus they are alternate.
Platanus Orientalis. - Platanaceae
The Planes are lofty trees (sixty to eighty feet), with thick cylindrical trunks, wide-spreading branches and abundant foliage. The leaves are five-lobed, with a few coarse teeth, and smooth - surface. The flowers of both sexes are in globular clusters and borne on the same tree, but on separate branches. The male flowers have a perianth of four narrow leaves alternating with the stamens. The female flowers consist of a one-seeded ovary with a curved style, one side of which is stigmatic. Flowers April and May.
P. occidentalis, the Western Plane, is very similar, but its leaves have red stalks, and are less deeply lobed and toothed; its bark scales less.
Platanus is the old Greek name for the Plane-tree, and is probably derived from Platos, breadth, in allusion to the broad leaves or the ample shade afforded by its branches.