Whilst the London Plane tree is of no use when foraging for food and drink; And as far as I’m aware, not especially useful for bushcraft; given that it accounts for probably half of the large trees in London, I think it’s worth being able to identify, if only for the purpose of elimination. Environmentally speaking, they are very useful as they grow very tall and have a natural ability to absorb pollution from the air (no wonder they’re planted so much in London!)
I was in Island Gardens when I found myself surrounded by them. Apparently Berkeley Square is also a good place to see them.
London Plane trees and Island Gardens
London Plane Identification
Luckily, it is one that is pretty easy to identify, even in winter. The bark is the thing that stands out the most, being a sort of urban camouflage. It is a smooth, but flaky bark, with the flaky scales often being coloured mottled green, brown, olive and grey. When the tree gets older, the lower parts of the trunk can appear more fissured/grooved, but the usual pattern will continue higher up.
London Plane Tree Mottled Bark
Older London Plane Tree Bark
As well as the bark, the fruit often remain on the tree through to spring, and they are small, spiky balls of 2 to 3 cm diameter.
London Plan fruit in winter
I’ve been on the lookout for pesky Alexanders for a while now. Mostly because I’ve read about how widespread they are, and about how they came to the UK with the Romans as a food stuff. Anyway, I’ve had a few moments where I’ve thought I have them, but then I’m not sure. The difficulty is that they’re not in flower until April, maybe late March, but definitely not in January and February.
Alexanders in Mudchute Park
So anyway, I was reading about making Gin Alexanders and getting irritated this weekend. After I’d given up I was reviewing my photos from last week, where I’d laid a broken ash twig on some weeds as a contrasting background. Guess what those weeds were? That’s right, and a great big pile of them too; And I’d seen them growing in quite a few different spots in the park.
Ash Twig on on Alexanders
In my garden
As if that weren’t frustrating enough; I was chasing our pet rabbits away from the flower bed, as usual, and guess what I spotted growing in the corner behind the Elder tree? Yep, pesky Alexanders again!
It could have been worse, at least I know I can find it now.