The Plane-trees

American Plane-tree American Plane-tree London Plane-tree London Plane-tree

What are they?

Plane-trees are extremely popular as street trees in inner city areas, as their thick, frequently-shed bark is extremely tolerant of the air pollution in such areas. London is famous for its plane-trees - a hybrid between the American and Oriental Plane-trees - which line the city streets and it is the same species that welcomes visitors to Cape May as they enter along Lafayette or Washington Streets. The American Plane-tree is well-known in North America under the name of Sycamore, but this name has long been in use for a species of maple in Europe - and perhaps even longer for a Middle Eastern species of fig!

Where are they found?

Neither of the plane-trees identified here are native to Cape May County, the American Plane-tree preferring deeper alluvial soils of river valleys. However, both are widely planted and likely to catch the plant hunter's eye in the region. Occasional specimens may be found on the site of old houses now long gone in remote woodland locations.


Both species are rather similar; mature specimens are readily told by differences in bark color. Leaves and flower/fruit clusters are subtly different.

American Plane-tree      Platanus occidentalis

(Sycamore) A large and often stately and imposing tree, found scattered here and there in urban and suburban zones, notably along Route 47 and in parts of West Cape May. Flowers April to May. Not native to our region but occasionally found in unlikely places, most often where a house once stood but since has long gone. Bark is very white-looking on younger, exposed sections.
American Plane-tree American Plane-tree American Plane-tree
Winter form
American Plane-tree American Plane-tree
Winter bud

London Plane-tree      Platanus x hispanica

Introduced from Europe, where it originated as a hybrid between American and Oriental Plane-trees. A popular shade tree in the streets of the older parts of Cape May City and occasional trees can be found scattered elsewhere. Flowers April to May. Doesn't regenerate naturally in Cape May, but included here as it is such a feature of the Cape May landscape in the city streets. Bark has yellowish tones to the paler, most-recently exposed sections.
London Plane-tree London Plane-tree London Plane-tree London Plane-tree
Winter twig

London Plane-tree