St. Louis Arch Grounds Project – Why the London Planetree?

I realize I am not the only one who is baffled by another large grouping of the exact same tree (monoculture) being used to replace the glorious ash trees on the St. Louis Arch Grounds. But after asking, “Why the same tree for 45% of the trees that cover the arch grounds?” the second question we should be asking is, “Why the London Planetree?” Here is a tree that is a hybrid cross of a native American Sycamore and the Oriental Planetree. So, technically it is only partially native. Already, this tree loses points in my book. But, it is also prone to diseases and so-called pests like many other trees and its fall color is nothing to write home about, which is unfortunate, because the ash trees’ fall color was something to write home about. You may think that if this tree is lacking in fall color compared to ash trees, it makes up for this shortcoming somewhere else, say, in flowers/blooms. Still the answer is “no”. London Planetree (Platanus x acerifolia) has insignificant flowers. It also sheds its bark, leaves, twigs, and fruits, making this a rather messy tree.

While the shedding bark is messy, the off-white bark left behind on the tree trunk will provide some winter interest. This is one of the benefits of this tree, though it’s not as brilliant of a white as the native American Sycamore. The mature native Sycamore has bark that can be seen from a good distance away. Lots of these can be seen in Tower Grove Park and Forest Park. Other pros of the London Planetree include the ability to handle urban pollution, soil conditions at the arch grounds, and drought. These are important things to consider but there could have been many better trees, native to Missouri, selected for the important job of being on the grounds and in the spotlight with the “Gateway to the West.” With how great the arch grounds should be when they are complete, it would be nice to have the majority of trees be strong natives to complement the package.

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