Platanus orientalis

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Common name   Oriental Plane Tree
Hebrew name   דולב מזרחי
Family Platanaceae
Leaf form Lobed
Leaf margin Emarginate
Habitat Riparian
צורת הגבעול Round
Life form Tree
Distribution in Israel Golan, Gallilee, Upper Jordan valley, Northern valleys, Judean mountains,
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Flowering months
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Endangered Medicinal allergenic

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Oriental Plane Tree
© Photo: Sara Gold  
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Additional information

Oriental Plane Tree is a tall, deciduous, rapidly growing tree with a thick trunk. It is very prominent in certain landscapes, but is considered rare in Israel. The number of individuals in the wild is apparently only several hundreds, several thousands at the most. There are 75 sites where it grows in Israel, most of them remnants with only a few trees.
Platanus orientalis grows wild in the north of Israel along river banks that conduct water all year, on both sides of the watershed, especially along Betzet, Amud, Snir (Hatzbani) and Hermon (Banias) rivers. Single individuals grow as far south as the Judea Mountains. The efforts of naturalists to preserve water flow in the rivers of the Galilee have revolved to a great extent around saving the Oriental Plane Tree, and have been rather successful, but not before some of the trees died.
The species is common and very successful in gardening, in parks and avenues.
The leaves are large, deeply split into 5 emarginated lobes. It should be emphasized that a large emarginated leaf is common in many species that are not related to each other, such as the fig, castor oil plant, maples (especially famous northern species), and should not be regarded as a distinct identification characteristic. The leaf is pilose, especially on its lower side. The trunk peels in patches, and has a picturesque look of white and greenish spots. The shape of the trunk is also interesting, with numerous knots, especially old trees that were damaged every once in a while by natural events, such as floods. In trees that grow domesticated, the trunk is straight and more"simple". The tree, which grows on riverbanks, grows rapidly both in height (up to a height of 25 meters) and in width (trunks with a diameter of 2 meters are not rare).
The flowers are single-sex, but male and female flowers grow on the same tree, and sometimes on the same branch. The flowers are tiny and not colorful, pollinated by wind and bloom in April-May.
The fruit (actually a capitulum, aggregate fruit) looks like a porcupine ball with a diameter of 3 cm, encompassed by protruding dull thorns. Upon opening it disperses hundreds of seeds (single-seed nutlets) that are equipped with a tuft of hairs for dispersion by wind.
In Israel the wood was sometimes used for construction, but rather rarely.
The distribution of the species covers the East Mediterranean countries and the Middle East, from Italy to the Caucasus and Himalaya mountains. In Turkey and Greece there are trees of huge dimensions that are hundreds years old. The crown of the tree there spreads horizontally more than vertically, unlike its usual vertical growth in Israel.
The genus includes 10 species, of which only two grow in the Old World. A species called Planatus occidentalis grows in the Western Hemisphere. There are no reproduction barriers between Planatus occidentalis and Platanus orientalis (except for distance), and hybrids are easily formed when they are planted next to one another.
In folk medicine the leaves were used to heal burns (perhaps because the hairs on the leaves cause skin irritation), and the bark and fruits were used against scorpion and snake bites.

Written by Mike Livne


Heritage

The Hebrew name “Dolev” appears already in the Jerusalem Talmud, in the Aramaic form “Dolba” (Ketubot 87), which is how its name is preserved among the Israeli Arabs to date.
Many researchers identify the tree with the chestnut that is mentioned in the Bible, from which Jacob pilled strakes: “And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chestnut tree” (Genesis 30: 37).
The prophet Ezekiel describes it as a large tree, compared to the cedar of Lebanon: “The fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches” (Ezekiel 31: 8).
Platanus orientalis was in the past a sacred tree for different peoples, and was planted in holy places near running water.
In Jericho and Jerusalem it was used for construction and Platanus orientalis beams were found in Jericho at sites from 8000 and 5000 years ago and in Roman sites.

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