Plane trees of London

Platanus orientalis 'Digitata'

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This is a form of the Oriental plane with long, finger like lobes. It is relatively uncommon, but has been planted more commonly in recent decades.

Digitata foliage

Foliage of Platanus orientalis Digitata

Description

Shoots and young leaves - The shoots are tinged red when young, later become brown-purple above in late summer, green-brown below. There is less and finer down than in the common planes. The stipules are usually relatively small, the sheath about 5mm long, the leafy part quite small. Winter shoots are medium to dark brown, and dark coloured compared with other planes.

Leaf shape - This is very distinctive, with long, finger like lobes to the leaves. Generally most of these lobes are more or less forward-pointing. The lobes are distinctly longer and narrower than in other forms of the species. The middle lobe may be rhomboidal, narrowing again from the central point. The sinuses are deep, generally to 5 to 7 cm from the base of the leaf. The sinuses are never narrowed by teething on the lobes as in some other forms. There are commonly 5 clear lobes, with an additional pair sometimes seen on vigorous midsummer grown leaves. The lobes are always deeply cut, to at least 2/3rds the length of the leaf blade, with a few teeth on leaf edges. Leaf blades are generally up to 25cm long and 3cm across, though a few can be larger still. Petioles are 3 to 5cm long.

Leaf colour - Leaves are a dark matt green above, pale matt green below. The leaf veins are yellow-brown. The petioles darken along their lengths to the purple-brown of the stems.

Axillary buds - Buds are dark brown purple, ovoid to conical, if conical with the tip cu0rved away from the shoot, with a distinct point, typically about 4-5 mm across at the base and 7-9 mm long.

Flowers and fruit - They are usually borne in bunches of 2 to 4 on a stem. The female flowers are purple-red, and the male flowers yellow-brown. The fruits are small, usually about 25mm across, sometimes up to 30mm across. The peduncles lengthen up to 30cm long. The fruits are borne on short branch peduncles, so short sometimes that they may be enclosed by the fruits.


Because of the distinctive leaf shape the tree stands out from other commonly seen planes. It was given a Award of Garden Merit, by the RHS in 2002.

The tree grows reasonably fast in London's climate. It would seem likely to become be a fairly dense foliaged tree compared to the London plane, but this will have to judged on older mature trees.

Identification and naming

The name Platanus orientalis forma digitata is sometimes used. A reference here suggests that this tree may be a form of the oriental plane native to the Himalayas. It may also have been described at times as Platanus cashmeriana, Platanus nepalensis, or as Platanus orientalis laciniata. There are several similar clones, some currently available. This tree has also been supplied under the cultivar name 'Cuneata'. Because the oriental plane is variable, there are several trees in London with long lobed leaves which are somewhat similar to, but are not this form. There is a tree in the southwest of Kew Gardens that bears a label with this name, but which has leaves resembling that of the common London plane.

This clone is sometimes confused with the form Platanus orientalis 'Minaret'. A discussion of some of the differences is on that form's web page. Because it appears to be infertile, 'Digitata' is sometimes considered to be a form of the London plane.

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3-September-2009