London Plane vs. American Sycamore Tree: 15 Differences Between These Towering Giants

It is true that some individuals find no distinction between the American sycamore and the London plane tree. A closer examination reveals a few distinctions between these imposing giants, though. The American sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, and the oriental plane, P. orientalis, are actually hybridized to create the London plane, which is the first difference. As a result, the scientific name for the London plane is either P. × hispanica or P. × acerifolia.

1. Sources

Native to the eastern portion of North America is the American sycamore. Its species name, occidentalis, does in fact indicate that it originated in the Western Hemisphere. The species name “orientalis” of the other parent tree indicates that it originated in the Eastern Hemisphere. This tree is indigenous to western Asia’s temperate regions.

The London plane has a long history, despite being a hybrid. It most likely initially surfaced when an oriental plane tree and an American sycamore were planted next to each other in the 17th century. According to some, this occurred in Spain, which is why the species is known as Pananus × hispanica. Some say that at London’s Vauxhall Gardens, an American sycamore and an oriental plane mated. In addition to its resilience and beauty, the hybrid London plane also bears fruit.

Here are some other differences between these towering giants.

2. Height

The London plane tree can reach heights of 65 to 100 feet and a diameter of more than 10 feet around its trunk. The American sycamore typically grows from 4.9 to 6.6 feet in diameter, yet it can reach heights of 98 to 131 feet. Big, ancient specimens, however, have been reported to reach a circumference of 13 feet. The American sycamore is regarded as the biggest tree in eastern North America and the largest deciduous tree in the United States.

3. Leaves

With two to four serrated side lobes and a toothed center lobe, the London plane’s huge, thick, stiff leaves resemble those of maple trees. Their length and width range from 4 to 8 inches and 5 to 10 inches, respectively. The wind has the ability to lift the fuzzy springtime foliage off of the leaves. Those who have respiratory conditions like asthma may be impacted by this.

Additionally, sycamore leaves are fuzzy when they are young and contain three, perhaps five, lobes. The base of the central lobe has large incisions that divide it from the other lobes and is wider than it is long. Though the lobes are not as deeply cut as those of the London plane, the leaves are frequently serrated.

The American sycamore tree doesn’t have the most vibrant fall foliage since its leaves dry out and become brown before falling. The London plane’s leaves turn a dull yellowish brown before they fall.

4. Fruit and Flowers

Both of these imposing giants have flower clusters that resemble tiny pom poms, with male and female blooms on separate stems. Male and female flowers differ in color; male blooms are green or yellow, while female blossoms are crimson.

The fruit is a ball filled with fall-bring achenes. To release the seeds, the achenes are progressively blown away. The fact that London plane trees typically have two or even three balls on a stem, whereas American sycamores typically only have one, is one of the most obvious distinctions between the two species. You can freeze these fruit balls for the entire winter.

5. Trunk

The London plane’s trunk grows straight upward, and its limbs are spaced far enough above the ground to avoid obstructing city traffic. The tree has an open crown due to its erratic branching.

Although American sycamore trees can have several trunks, they also frequently lack branches until they are quite high up. Additionally, the branches spread out to create a lovely open crown. The American sycamore can occasionally have a hollow trunk. It has been seen that bears and other creatures have made homes inside the trunks of these trees because they can grow to enormous sizes.

6. Bark

The bark of the American sycamore and the London plane both slough off in flakes to reveal the lighter inner bark underneath. Because their bark is too hard to flex well as the tree grows, trees shed in this manner. Fortunately, this shedding lends the tree trunks a lovely, speckled appearance.

7. Where You’ll Find These Towering Giants

London plane trees are common in cities because of their extreme pollution tolerance, which even allows them to filter air pollution. Locate them in parks, on boulevards, and along streets.

Native to the eastern and central United States, southern Ontario and Quebec, and northeastern Mexico, the American sycamore is a plant of North America. It grows well in marshes.

8. Lifespan

The lifespan of an American sycamore tree can reach 600 years, making it a very long-living tree. Given that they are frequently planted in tense urban areas, London plane trees might not live as long. They can still live for 400 years.

9. Diseases

Compared to the American sycamore, the London plane is less susceptible to anthracnose disease. Apiognomona veneta is the pathogen that causes this condition. It blights the leaves of the tree and causes cankers in the buds and twigs.

10. Hardiness Zones

Hardiness zones 5 through 9 are ideal for London plane growth, whereas zones 4 through 9 are ideal for American sycamores.

11–14. Temperature, Light, Soil, and Water

Although it can tolerate little shade, the London plane loves full sun. The American sycamore thrives in full sun to semi-shade.

Although they are not picky about soil, loamy, deep, rich soil with good drainage is ideal for London plane trees. Being a marshland tree, the American sycamore enjoys moist soil as long as it drains properly.

Watering the London plane should be done in a medium to high amount. The American sycamore is drought-tolerant. Make sure it receives water during dry spells, if at all feasible. These two imposing behemoths can withstand both harsh winters and scorching summers and thrive in a moderate environment.

15. Fertilizer

The London plane, which is frequently planted in the poor soils of metropolitan areas, may use some fertilizer every now and again. Although the American sycamore doesn’t require much fertilizer, you should still give it some in the early spring.