Platanus × acerifolia                               

London Plane Tree (Lamp-eating Tree)  

Manor View Nursery (now closed), 3321 Columbia Avenue, Lancaster PA

 

Len Eiserer

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This London Plane supports a lamp whose mounting stem is being enveloped by the tree.  [For a similar phenomenon, see "White Oak/Sign-Eating Tree" in a separate entry.]  

 

Trees that encounter objects obstructing their growth have three options:  (1) stop growing, (2) grow away from the objects, or (3) envelope and "eat" the objects.  Given time, trees can grow around and consume just about anything.  

 

A famous example is the Bicycle Tree of Vashon Island, Washington (see last photo).  Here, a rusted bicycle is suspended inside a tree's trunk about 7 feet off the ground.   How this happened is not known for sure but one story has a young man chaining his bike to the tree before going off to WWI in 1917, never to return.  However, the bike is a child's bicycle, not a young man's; and its style is from the mid-20th Century, not early.  A more probable explanation is that in 1954 an 8-year-old boy by the name of Don Puz was playing in the island's swampy woods, hung his bike in a tree fork, forgot it when he went home, and never bothered to retrieve it (Puz disliked the bike).  In any event, the Bicycle Tree today is a major tourist attraction in the Varshon area.

 

Discovered in the mid-17th century in a garden in Vauxhall (a district in London), London Plane is a hybrid between the American Sycamore and the Oriental Plane.  Sycamores bear one seed-ball per stalk and Orientals bear three; the London Plane has two seed-balls on at least some stalks.  As seen in the fourth photo, this tree has some seed-balls in twos.

 

This amazing species is so favored as an attractive and hardy urban dweller that it accounts for over half of all the trees in the city of London.