London’s Lung: Hidden in Plane Sight

The humble London Plane Tree is often overlooked, but across our pavements it makes up for over half of the City’s tree population.

London Plane Tree

The best way of identifying one is down to its eye-catching, camouflage style bark;

In the 19th Century the London Plane was essentially mass-produced, an ideal combatant against the smog. Its quirky bark, which breaks away in large flakes, absorbs and is resistant to pollution making it ideal for cities.

London Plane Tree

In the winter you can spot it in all its stumpy glory after being ‘pollarded’ (when leaves and smaller branches are cut away). It’s unusual for a tree to benefit from this treatment, but that’s why the London Plane is a perfect urban dweller.

Anther benefit is that it can survive in most soils and the roots are usually quite contained, making it perfect for tree-lined avenues like Victoria Embankment.


It was ‘discovered’ in the mid-17th century by John Tradescant the Younger and he cultivated it in his famous nursery garden and ‘ark’ in Vauxhall. John was something of a green-fingered God, introducing plants such as lilacs and poppies to London crowds.

It’s a mixture of the American Sycamore and Oriental Plane so in itself is a symbol of London’s prosperity and global trade networks.

London Plane Tree

So next time you walk along a tree-lined street, take a closer look at your surroundings!

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