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Pondering a London Plane

Today I moved some cucumbers into a homemade self-watering container, and transplanted some baby beets to an apple crate in the front yard, which I notice is getting much more sun than usual these days, thanks, in part, to the London Plane.  I only knew this tree to be the great big one in front of my house, just off to the side.  It, along with a massive pine that came down this past winter, blocked the sun from my front yard enough that I didn’t bother with any significant planting there in prior years.

Today, as my very most awesome neighbor-friend was helping me move my cukes into the container she built for them, I happened to mention that my next-door neighbor has been calling 311 because all the leaves are dropping of the tree so it must be diseased, and should probably be removed.  At that, very most awesome neighbor-friend said she had thought the same thing when she saw all the leaves falling from the yard in front of her building a few blocks away when she used to lived there.  She said she mentioned this to the building owner, only to learn that this is normal for that kind of tree, which is a London Plane who drops her leaves twice a year – once in the summer and again in early fall.  Very most awesome neighbor friend offered me a book to borrow confirming this when I mentioned that next-door neighbor friend was rallying me to call 311 also to take the poor thing down and put it out of its misery.  I was just starting to decline the invitation (I can barely keep up with the reading I’m doing now and knew I would do more than peruse), when next-door neighbor walked by.  She seemed satisfied with this explanation for all the loose leaves in the yard but pointed out that the leaves are all full of tiny holes and so they must still be diseased.   I don’t know if tiny holes in leaves makes a tree “diseased.”  (See QUESTION below).

Very most awesome neighbor-friend told me before the dialogue with next door neighbor friend that the London Plane, since it does shed twice a year, is considered one of the better trees for getting rid of air pollution because it absorbs it, drops the leaves, grows some more leaves, absorbs more crappity-crap, and drops them again.  Hey, nice job, London Plane!

Although a quick perusal of Wikipedia doesn’t confirm what I’ve learned of the double shedding, I did pick up some other little tidbits, including that it tolerates air pollution and root compaction well, and thus is a popular choice for urban streetscapes.  I don’t believe it’s native but, nonetheless, like many New Yorkers, it’s a transplant that’s made its own impact felt: “According to Lois Nam of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation the symbol of that organisation is a cross between the leaf of the London plane and a maple leaf. It is prominently featured on signs and buildings in public parks across the city. The tree is today on the NYC Parks Department’s list of restricted use trees for street tree planting.”  All of which leads me to my ….

QUESTION #1: what are telltale signs of disease in a tree?  Are London Planes prone to any particular type of disease?  When do you fell a tree due to disease?  Does it have to be deathly ill or will a little sniffle be reason enough to euthanize?  ALSO…

QUESTION #2: what does it mean if a tree is on a NYC Parks’ “list of restricted use trees for street tree planting”?  Does that mean it can’t be used for other things?  What else would you use it for?  Can I not plant it in my backyard?  Why not?  Not, of course, that I’m going to – I have my hands full with trying to confirm whether I’ve got elderberries or dogwood berries back there, but that’s another post for another day.  In the meantime, go ahead … gimme the dirt!

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