The Plane tree and its fiery properties


Why write about a tree you may well ask … but this one’s good if you need to light a fire without felling it or breaking bits off.

Let’s get the background out of the way first: Platanus is a genus of trees made up of ten species which are the remaining survivors of the Patanaceae family. Generally, they grow to between 30 and 50 m high and survive for several hundreds of years. They are popular in urban areas because they are resistent to air pollution and poor soils. As an example the London Plane, which is a hybrid species between the American and Oriental Planes, was first planted in about 1550 and survived the extreme Smog caused by industrialisation during the Victorian era.

Also known as the lungs of the city, they use hairs on their leaves to actually absorb pollution before releasing oxygen back into the environment. Another feature typical to the Plane is its ability to shed its bark to prevent excessive amounts of pollutants entering the healthy fibre beneath. The faster the tree grows, the more bark it will shed.  This is not a sign of an ailing tree.

The bark bursts off the tree and dries like thick paper

The Plane is characterised by its camouflage-like bark which, when the outer layers have pealed away, reveal clean creamy and green shades beneath … and it is the peeled away bark that interests us: if you collect the sun-dried sheets of bark scattered on the ground around the base of the tree (or dry them at home), you only need to break them into small pieces and put a match to them the next time you need a fire. The bark burns more slowly than grass or leaves and develops a good flame temperature thus making it a useful (and 100% natural) fire-lighter.

Broken up and stored for the next trip – only a few pieces are needed to light a fire

I use them to light the fire in my Kelly Kettle for a hot drink and to start a camp fire or barbecue. Just break the bark into thin strips, ignite and grow your fire upon them.

Plane bark: an effective fire-lighter that’s free, can be collected and stored for use on tour, and renews itself year in year out.

That’s it … just sharing something because it was lying around anyway.

Author: Mike Brailey

Adventure journalist with a passion for classic Land Rovers and an open mind for all things new. Opinions are my own.

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