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Platanus × acerifolia, the London plane, London planetree, or hybrid plane, is a tree in the genus Platanus. It is usually thought to be a hybrid of Platanus orientalis (oriental plane) and the Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore). Some authorities think that it may be a cultivar of P. orientalis.

DescriptionEdit

The London Plane is a large deciduous tree growing to 20–35 m (exceptionally over 40 m) tall, with a trunk up to 3 m or more in circumference. The bark is usually pale grey-green, smooth and exfoliating, or buff-brown and not exfoliating. The leaves are thick and stiff-textured, broad, palmately lobed, superficially maple-like, the leaf blade 10–20 cm long and 12–25 cm broad, with a petiole 3–10 cm long. The young leaves in spring are coated with minute, fine, stiff hairs at first, but these wear off and by late summer the leaves are hairless or nearly so. The flowers are borne in one to three (most often two) dense spherical inflorescences on a pendulous stem, with male and female flowers on separate stems. The fruit matures in about 6 months, to 2–3 cm diameter, and comprises a dense spherical cluster of achenes with numerous stiff hairs which aid wind dispersal; the cluster breaks up slowly over the winter to release the numerous 2–3 mm seeds.

OriginEdit

It was first recorded as occurring in Spain in the 17th century, where the Oriental Plane and the American Plane had been planted in proximity to one another. The leaf and flower characteristics are intermediate between the two parent species, the leaf being more deeply lobed than P. occidentalis but less so than P. orientalis, and the seed balls typically two per stem (one in P. occidentalis, 3-6 in P. orientalis). The hybrid is fertile, and seedlings are occasionally found near mature trees.

Controlled reciprocal pollinations between P. occidentalis and P. orientalis resulted in good yields of germinable seed and true hybrid seedlings. Crosses of both species, as females, with P. racemosa and P. wrightii produced extremely low yields of germinable seed, but true hybrids were obtained from all interspecific combinations. Apomixis (asexual reproduction from non-fertilized seeds) appeared common in P. orientalis.

In 1968 and 1970, Frank S. Santamour, Jr., recreated the P. orientalis, P. occidentalis cross using a P. orientalis of Turkish origin with American sycamores (P. occidentalis). The offspring were evaluated following several years of exposure to anthracnose infection. Two selections'Columbia' and 'Liberty' were released in August, 1984.

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