|Plane trees of London
Platanus x acerifolia 'Suttneri'
This is a relatively weak growing, white variegated form. Despite its weaknesses, it is still capable of growing to at least a medium size in time. Mature trees are rare, mainly 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. The tree can be quite attractive when reasonably healthy and in full leaf.
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 may be 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.
Bark - reported as often being very pale to white. This is presumably when and where it peels off. Generally the exposed bark is an olive to olive-brown.
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, probably due to the greater proportion of losses to young shoots due to anthracnose the crown may be thinner.
The general weakness may be connected directly to the variegation. In many white-variegated plants the white areas do not possess chlorophyll - one of several forms of chimeral variegation associated with the separate reproduction of the chloroplast plastids. Hence these are essentially unproductive tissue supported by the rest of the plant. The plant can then be expected to be weaker than unvariegated ones.
The author does not know of any existing trees in London of this form in 2022. It appears to be scarce in supplier catalogues too. The tallest known reached about 7 meters height in 15 years or so, by about year 2000, before its trunk broke at a point of old anthracnose damage. Bean's Manual in print mentions a tree over 50 feet high at Holland Park, but this too has been lost. There were reasonably healthy young trees in 2011 in the collection at Mottisfont Abbey, Hampshire.
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