This magnificent plane tree, one of several venerable specimens in the square, has recently been given the distinction of its own information board. It also has a full page illustration all to itself in the book Bloomsbury’s Squares and Gardens
The Brunswick Plane, acclaimed as one of the ten Great Trees of London in 2008, probably dates from the laying out of Brunswick Square gardens in 1796. At well over 200 years old, it is thought to be the second oldest plane tree in central London; only Berkeley Square has older examples (planted 1789).
The London Plane is a natural hybrid and its parents are generally thought to be the two species Platanus orientalis and Platanus occidentalis. The hybrid is usually described as Platanus x hispanica (to show its hybrid origin), because the original hybridisation was thought to have taken place in Spain, but it might have happened in Vauxhall Gardens in London where the famous gardener John Tradescant the Younger discovered an example of the tree in the mid-17th century.
Large, indented leaves and attractive peeling grey bark are the recognisable features of the London Plane. Because the tree is very tolerant of pollution and poor soil conditions, it was planted extensively all over London in the Victorian period, hence its common name of London Plane. There are several in the gardens. Nearby are two very different London Plane variants, previously thought to be Platanus orientalis. They are nicknamed ‘baobab planes’ because of their bulbous shape (which might be the result of a virus infection, though this uncertain).
The Great Plane welcomes you to sit under its shade in the summer. Please treat its venerable age with respect and resist the temptation to swing or sit on its lower branches.