14 – Platanus orientalis / Oriental Plane (Plane Tree)

Simply magnificent in every way this tree has rather a disappointing name, yet its offspring softens hard city landscapes and has become the scourge of town planners in Southern England and caused many a neighbourhood dispute its name is: –

Platanus orientalis Oriental Plane (Plane Tree)

Plane trees grow naturally around the Mediterranean along rich soil riverine systems although they can withstand drought and are exceptionally long lived. Achieving 100ft in height with a main trunk of 10ft thick and a vast 80ft wide crown from halfway up the trunk. Its leaves are like our Sycamore leaves but much larger more smooth, shiny, pointed and turn a fantastic ruby red in Autumn before they fall. Plane trees also produce fruits that look like chestnuts but are not which is why the early translators of the bible called them that rather than planes. Chestnut trees of any kind have never ever been known to grow in the Middle East.   So, this was corrected this error when they brought out the Revised King James Translation.  Another feature of the Plane Tree is that when mature it sheds large platelets of bark exposing big areas of its trunk which can vary in colour from white through yellow green and pink.  The writers of the original text used the Hebrew word “armon” which means naked.  Chestnut trees do not shed bark Plane trees do.

In my career as a Dendrologist and due to their monumental size, I have investigated and reported on many a Plane tree, usually as a second opinion where there was a dispute for a Tree Preservation Order. This is because they are a familiar feature in parks, and streets, being very tolerant of pollution, but little will grow under their vast crowns and their leaves take ages to break down in winter. They truly are magnificent

They are only mentioned twice in the bible. In Genesis 30 v 37 we note that Plane trees grew along with Poplar and Willow when Jacob was creating a new breed of sheep and cattle.  We still have Jacobs sheep today brown and white in colour.  Chestnut will not grow with willow.

In Ezek. 31 v 8 the splendour of the plane tree is mentioned again only this time the might of the Assyrian empire is likened to it and destroyed, and Ezekiel was warning Egypt of its destruction too. Therefore, like it or not in all our splendour, we like the Plane tree must constantly renew ourselves, digging deep into reserves, stripping away all our old and stand naked before God each day if we hope to survive in today’s world and avoid its pollution.  The richness of Gods word is always good a place to start, or listen to the words of Matt Redman’s song: –

When the music fades, and all is stripped away

And I simply come, Longing just to bring something that’s of worth, that will bless Your heart

I’ll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself Is not what You have required

You search much deeper within through the way things appear

You’re looking into my heart

Sometimes we get so bogged down with labels, names and how we look but what this tree teaches me is humility.  “Plane” and simple.