Broad-crowned tree to 30 m or so tall. Trunk large. Bark flaking in plates to give a mottled appearance, sometimes flaky on trunks and bases of limbs. Branches upright to spreading; young growth covered in brown hair. Leaves palmate with 3-5 lobes, the margins entire or with large widely spaced teeth. Leaf stalk of variable length. The globular clusters of flowers appear before or with the first leaves, September. Fruits mostly of two balls on long stalks to about 15 cm long and consisting of numerous nutlets. [p. hispanica münchh., p. ×hispanica münchh. 'Acerifolia', p. ×hybrida Brot.].
The Plane tree is generally considered to be a hybrid, P. occidentalis × P. orientalis, and is reputed to have originated in the Botanic Garden of Oxford University, England, both species being established there by the 18th century from seed received from Montpellier, France. The name P. ×acerifolia 'London' has been proposed for the original clone perpetuated by cuttings. It is not the clone found in Australia. The source of the plane has not, however, been established conclusively. There has been considerable variation in names used for the commonly cultivated Plane. P. ×hispanica is the preferred name in some modern texts as it has priority over P. ×hybrida Brot. and P. ×acerifolia (Ait.) Willd. However, in the absence of agreement over the adequacy of type specimens (see glossary) the more traditional usage is retained here. 'Hispanica' [P. ×acerifolia var. hispanica] is said to differ from the usual species in having large leaves generally to 30 cm wide and 5-lobed with the leaf stalk and leaf veins carrying persistent hairs; this is essentially a variant whose name is of uncertain application. It was early practice in Australia to grow plane trees from seed obtained from this hybrid. As a result a considerable range of characters occurs in the trees grown-a result of seedling variation reflecting different characters of the two parents; seedling plants may also have rough bark. This has led to some difficulties in identification.
P. occidentalis L. from Eastern North America is extremely rare in cultivation in Australia although there are a few established trees adjacent to the south-east rose garden at old Parliament House and elsewhere in Canberra, also at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, just north of Government House grounds; it differs from the Plane chiefly in having mostly solitary fruit balls; the leaves are usually 3-lobed and the fruit balls solitary.
P. wrightii S. Watson [P. occidentalis 'Wrightii', P. racemosa var. wrightii (S. Wats.) Benson] is cultivated in SW Telopea Park and elsewhere in Canberra, but does not appear suited to the Australian climate and is very susceptible to anthracnose; the leaves are usually entire. A large tree of P. racemosa remains in Sydney's Hyde Park South, close to the Elizabeth St-Park St corner; there were once several good trees in Hyde Park.
SA: Adelaide (Adelaide Botanic Garden; Frome Rd, old plantings of London and Oriental Planes); Unley Park (old plantings of London and Oriental Planes). NSW: Bowral (Corbett Gardens); Goulburn (Court House); Orange (Cook Park; Robertson Park); Ournie (Jephcott Arboretum near riverbank, 5 m circumference at chest height, 34 m tall, spread 35 m in 1991); Sydney (Centennial Park; Hyde Park; Redfern Park; Royal Botanic Garden Sydney); Wagga Wagga (widely used street tree); Wellington (Park). VIC: Coburg (De Chene Res.); Hawthorn (Central Gardens); Melbourne (St Kilda Rd & rear garden of Melbourne Club, Collins Street); Leongatha (Moss Vale Park); Murchison (Gregory’s Bridge Hotel); Malvern (Malvern Gardens, High Street); Kew (avenue Sackville St); Melbourne (Treasury Gardens); Parkville (courtyard of 1888 Building - formerly Melbourne University Teachers College); Walhalla (back of old Bank vault). TAS: Hobart (Salamanca Place, Castray Esplanade, exceptional avenue of trees over 100 years old); Launceston (Brickfields Reserve; Cataract Gorge Reserve; City Park).
Source: (1997). Platanaceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 2. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 1. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.
Broadly conical with large, glossy leaves. Said to have a greater resistance to anthracnose, heat, drought and soil compression; it is quick growing but susceptible to high levels of ozone pollution. Probably first grown at the Meehan Nursery, Germantown, Pennsylvania c. 1900 but later produced by other nurseries including the Bloodgood Nurseries, usa.