Plane trees of London

Platanus x acerifolia 'Suttneri'

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Leaf of Platanus 'Suttneri'

Leaf of Platanus 'Suttneri' in August

This is a relatively weak growing, white variegated form. Despite its weaknesses, it is still capable of growing to a large tree in time. Mature trees are rare, partly because anthracnose disease tends to kill off trees before they reach maturity.

The leaf is variably variegated green, pale green, and white. The extent and detail of variegation varies between leaves. Some leaves are almost all green, others nearly all pure white. The variegation is often more noticeable as the leaves mature.

Description

Tree - the tree usually has a sparse, thinly leafed crown. (See note on anthracnose disease below.)

Leaf shape - this is typical of London plane; 3 to 5 lobes, but with the middle lobe often long than wide. Some leaves are distinctly asymmetric. The asymmetry is probably connected with a disproportionate growth of white tissue on one side of the leaf.

Leaf colour - The basic colour is a fairly matt mid-green. However there are interveinal areas that are paler, and some that are white. The paler areas are a uniform pale green; the patchwork of colours on the leaf is made up of only 3 or 4 colours. Changes in colour on mature leaves are always abrupt and never gradual, and are often defined by veins. Early leaves (smaller leaves) tend to have more green areas than later summer leaves. Because of this, the tree is not always as distinctive as some of the photographs suggest. On young leaves the distinct colours cannot always be recognised.

Axillary buds - these are small, purple, and with a sharply pointed conical tip.


The tree suffers more than most from plane anthracnose. A typical tree in summer will bear large numbers of twigs that have been completely killed by this. Young trees are particularly likely to die from this. Apart from the variegation and the susceptibility to anthracnose, the foliage and character of the tree is similar to that of the London plane. However, the greater proportion of losses to young shoots due to anthracnose results in a thinner crown.

The author does not know of any existing trees in London. The tallest that he knew reached about 7 meters height in 15 years or so, before its trunk broke at a point of old anthracnose damage. Records exist in Bean's Manual of a tree over 50 feet high at Holland Park, but this is not present now. There are reasonably healthy young trees in the collection at Mottisfont Abbey, Hampshire.

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2-September-2009