The 42,000 plane trees in France whose roots bind the banks of the Canal du Midi are less fortunate. They are being culled as I write despite their contribution to this man-made UNESCO World Heritage Site as they have been infected by incurable canker stain. The story is that a fungus which grows harmlessly on native plane trees (american sycamores) was transported to France by the US army during the Second World War in some wooden packaging which hadn't been dried thoroughly. It seems that the same fungus is fatal if it comes in contact with oriental plane trees or their hybrids. (London plane trees are a hybrid of american sycamores and oriental plane trees.)
I wondered what it would be like to take a peaceful ride on a canal boat shaded through the entire journey by plane trees on both sides and resigned myself to the fact that it wasn't a possibility any more. Then on a sunny day in mid-October I was perched on the front seat of a double-decker bus when I saw trees in the distance which made my heart skip a beat.
|Mid - October 2012|
However, the plane tree doesn't let go of its dark-brown, prickly, round seed clusters as the wind will determine their destiny.
By mid-November, most of the leaves formed a thick carpet around the tree and its magnificent framework was revealed.
|Mid - November 2012|
After a few windy days (or a clean-up by the groundsmen), the carpet had disappeared. The tree is certainly not shy to be naked now, presenting its symmetrical form as one approaches, the lower branches bearing a resemblance to the Angel of the North.
|Mid - December 2012|
... but if you turn back, you'll catch a glimpse of its mischievous off-balance persona.