plane tree

plane tree,  sycamore, or buttonwood, any species of the genus Platanus, deciduous trees of most temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, exclusive of Africa. The hairy, dry, seedlike fruits are densely packed into a hard brown ball, hence the name buttonwood. The large American sycamore, or plane ( P. occidentalis ), supplies a hardwood popular for carpentry, furniture, and butchers' blocks. The Oriental plane ( P. orientalis ) of the Mediterranean area and W Asia is used for wood pulp. The London plane ( P. acerifolia ), sometimes miscalled Oriental plane, is much planted as an ornamental shade tree in cities; it is probably a hybrid of the American and Oriental planes. Sycamore is sometimes spelled sycomore, but should not be confused with the unrelated sycomore fig ( Ficus sycomorus ) of the family Moraceae. Plane trees are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Hamamelidales, family Platanaceae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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