Plane Tree Symbolism and Meanings

 4 min read

Plane trees have been venerated since ancient times for their grandeur and longevity.

In Greek mythology, the plane tree was associated with the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus and queen of the Olympian gods and was also said to be the birthplace of Apollo, the god of the sun.

In China, the plane tree is a symbol of balance and serenity while in Japan, plane trees are used in the art of bonsai, and are believed to bring good luck. Plane trees have also been used in divination practices and according to some traditions, if a plane tree is planted near a house, it will protect the occupants from evil spirits.

Plane trees are also believed to be able to cure depression. In one famous story, a man who was suffering from depression went to live in a forest where he met a plane tree spirit who cured his depression and taught him the importance of living in balance with nature. The plane tree is thus a powerful symbol of healing and balance.

Symbolism:Balance
Divine Associations:Zeus, Apollo Platanistios, Helena Dendritis
Astrological Associations:Sun, Pluto
Historical Spotlight:Upon coming across a plane tree while marching his troops against Greece in 480 BCE, east of Sardes in Lydia (modern Turkey), Persian king Xerxes halt to celebrate. He adorned the plane with golden jewellery and other offerings, and according to Herodotus, appointed a gardener to care for it until its death.

About Plane Trees

Tall plane trees
Tall plane trees

The Oriental plane tree (P. orientalis) is a native of southeastern Europe and western Asia, one species in a genus of only six. It’s a massive tree that can live for centuries, with mottled bark that flakes off in patches. The leaves are deeply five-lobed, each holding two to six bristly fruits on one stalk.

Because they can endure polluted air and harsh pruning, plane trees—like the popular London plane (P. acerifolia), a hybrid of the Oriental and American planes—are often found in urban areas.

Practical Uses

The plane tree has long been a popular choice for providing shade in the Mediterranean region. The wood is also valued for its resistance to rot, and it’s been used for making furniture, boats, barrels and containers for shipping wine.

Natural Healing

The leaves of the plane tree, when crushed and made into a poultice, soothe irritated eyes. A tea brewed from the same leaves can treat diarrhea. The bark of the tree, boiled in vinegar, makes for a pain-relieving gargle that eases toothaches. Inhaling the scent of the tree prevents negative emotions like melancholy and over-analysis while also broadening one’s perspective.

Folklore, Myth and Symbol of the Plane Tree

Old plane tree
Old plane tree

The ancient Armenians would have the fire priests interpret oracles from the movement of the branches of a sacred plane tree at Armavira. In Persia, The plane tree was also known as the guardian tree of kings. Even today, many revered and shade-giving plane trees can be found near village springs in areas such as The Near East.

Zeus’ symbol was the double axe, known as the labrys, in ancient Caria. A plane grove dedicated to Zeus housed the Labraunda, which suggests that it was once sacred to a mother goddess before the Dorian invasion circa 1200 BCE. Male gods triumphing over female goddesses is mirrored in local folklore, where male deities often take advantage of or rape female goddesses. Cretan Europa was one such victim; she submitted to Zeus inside a sacred evergreen plane tree, which was quite rare even back then – only 29 specimens were known to exist in 1980.

The myth of Heracles tells the story of a grove that stretched from Mount Pontinus to the sea near Argos. Shrines in the grove marked where Hades, Persephone and Dionysus had descended to the underworld. The Hydra, a water monster, had her lair under one of the planes, and her seven heads symbolized the Amymone river which was said to have seven sources.

The connection of the plane to both water and the underworld suggests an ancient link to goddesses. Additionally, the lore surrounding the plane points to a balance of celestial opposites, such as the sun and moon, or heaven and hell – much like The Tree of Life.

Conclusion

Next time you see a plane tree, remember that it represents so much more than just a big old tree. Take a moment to appreciate the balance it brings to the environment, the divination properties it possesses and how it has been known to cure depression.

And if you’re ever feeling low, take solace in knowing that there is a tree out there whose very existence can lift your spirits.