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(Plane Tree family)


Ten species in one genus are found in northern temperate regions. The under-surfaces of the leaves and the young parts of the plant are often clothed with an evanescent or more or less persistent felt of stellate of simple hairs. The fruit is a globose head surrounded by a tuft of long bristly pappose hairs.

[Summary yet to be added]

Plane Tree

Ten species are recognised. Platanus orientalis, the oriental plane, is found from south-eastern Europe to northern Persia. P. kerrii is found in Indo-China. P. occidentalis, the American buttonwood, is found in eastern North America. Seven species are found in the south-western United States and Mexico.

Dioscorides (First Century A.D.), referring to "platanos", noted that "The Lanugo of the leaves and ye Pilulae (falling into the ears and eyes) doth hurt the hearing and the sight".

Hayfever and asthma occurring in a male individual, who pruned a plane tree, was attributed to downy material which was found on the leaves and "seed balls" during the summer. Other trees did not affect him nor did plane trees at other times of the year. Scratch tests with a watery suspension of the downy material from the leaves produced positive reactions (Zacharin 1933).

Platanus × acerifolia Willd.
[syns Platanus × hispanica auct. non Mill. ex Münchh., Platanus hybridus Brot., Platanus orientalis L. var. acerifolia Aiton]
Hybrid Plane, London Plane Tree, Spanish Plane Tree, Platane à Feuilles d'Érable, Gewöhnliche Platane

The London plane is believed to be a hybrid between Platanus orientalis × Platanus occidentalis. It is widely planted as a wayside and boulevard tree.

Schulmann & Détouillon (1932) noted that "le platane" — poplar; possibly this taxon — is commonly implicated in woodcutter's eczema, now recognised as caused by lichens and liverworts (Frullania spp.).

Platanus occidentalis
American Buttonwood

The bristly fruits can produce mechanical injury in animals (Muenscher 1951).

Platanus orientalis
Oriental Plane

A specimen of this tree on the island of Kos, Greece, is reputed to be the Tree of Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. A seedling of this tree grown in Canada produced conjunctival and nasopharyngeal irritation in four workers from its leaf hairs. Type I hypersensitivity could not be demonstrated by scratch tests (Ross and Mitchell 1974).


  • Dioscorides, The Greek Herbal of: Englished by John Goodyer: A.D. 1655. Edited and first printed A.D. 1933 by R.T. Gunther 1959. New York. Hafner Publishing Co. 2: 206.
  • Muenscher WCL (1951) Poisonous Plants of the United States, 2nd edn. New York: Macmillan Company [WorldCat]
  • Ross, A.F. and Mitchell, J.C. (1974) Respiratory irritation by leaf hair of the tree Platanus. Ann. Allerg. 32: 94.
  • Schulmann E, Détouillon P (1932) L'eczéma du bois et la sensibilisation sylvestre. [Wood-induced eczema and forest-associated sensitisation]. Paris Médical (83): 55-61 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Zacharin, D. (1933) Plane tree leaves a cause of seasonal asthma and hay fever. Med. J. Australia 1: 467.

Richard J. Schmidt

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