Behind the artworks – pair of Plane trees

plane-trees-wide-view-lo-res

The pair of Plane trees, (Platanus orientalis) is situated opposite the Law Library in Trinity College Dublin.  See above image above.  

Platanus trees are tall, reaching 30–50 m (98–164 ft) in height and are native to the Northern Hemisphere. Plane trees shed their bark every two to three years getting rid of certain amounts of pollution with the old bark. It is for this reason that they are frequently planted in urban areas.

This pair of trees are genetically related. As a result of an infection during their infancy both trees have an unusual lumpy bark and thick trunks. The lumpy protrusions on the bark are called nodules and continue to grow and regularly fall off the infected lower trunk.

large-nodule-that-prof-taylor-will-investigate

These nodules were the starting point in the development of the plane tree artworks. Initially Hassett collected a large fallen nodule (see image above of the nodule used) and made a two-piece mould from it. Coloured wax was poured into the mould and expanding foam was added to the interior as a strengthener. Two replica wax works were then created.

Interest in microscopic imagery of the haphazard cell structures (see images above) from both infected barks led to the artist to include a representative pattern of cellular ‘holes’ in both wax works. She used imagery from the right tree in the artwork designed for the left and visa versa for the artwork installed in the right tree. In addition both wax pieces were deliberately installed opposite each other further heightening the connection and unique nature of these two trees.

Of note: the artist spent many hours researching and attempting in vain to develop a viable bioplastic recipe to use in the creation of these works. Wax was the material of choice in the end as it will be interesting to see how the sticky surface and structure of the wax pieces will morph and alter in response to its environs over the course of the exhibition.  

Images of the artworks in situ will be posted after the opening of the Exhibition on the 29th of September 2017.  

Making the artworks – the plane tree

large-nodule-that-prof-taylor-will-investigate

The Plane tree nodule collected and ready to begin moulding

 

IMG-0534 lo res

The finished plaster backed silicone two piece mould of the nodule

 

IMG-0508 lo res

 

Wax samples testing how much red colourant to add to the microcrystalline wax to get the desired colour.

 

IMG-0507 lo res

 

Partial wax for colour and surface texture texting

 

IMG-0509 lo res

 

Resultant partial wax test

 

IMG-0525 lo res

 

Two wax copies from both parts of the mould

 

IMG-0516 lo res

 

Both halves of the wax mould brought together to create a working 3d model.

IMG-0532 lo res

 

Two working wax works ready to be properly adhered together.

The drilling of the holes to represent the imagery from the microscope will be added at a later stage.

I will post images of the final wax works when they have been installed in the trees after the official opening on September 29th.

Opening night – Guided exhibition walk

cb 1 lo res

As part of the opening event for the Trinity College Trees Exhibition there will be a guided walk to all the exhibits by one of the project team.   The walk will take place on Friday 29th September between 5.15-5.45.  There will be a limited number of spaces.  Details on how to sign up for the guided walk will be posted nearer the time.  

If you are unable to book a slot on the guided walk don’t worry the team are also in the process of developing a sound piece that will accompany those wishing to take a self guided walk from Saturday the 30th of September until the end of the exhibition.  Once the walker brings their own headphones they can visit the works at their leisure.   In front of each of the chosen trees the team also plan to have an A4 stand with a brief description of the project and the positioning of each tree on a campus map.

There will be two versions of sound piece depending on which end of the campus you are starting will determine the listing of the trees and which sound piece you click on.  One version of the sound piece covers the walk if you are starting in the main square at the Oregon Maple.  The other version if you are starting at the Science Gallery.  

Included in the audio piece is a brief introduction to the Trinity Trees Project, the trees involved and the artworks commissioned in response to these trees.

Tree spotlight no:8 – Plane Tree

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2033 year old Plan Tree in Azerbaijan

Platanus is a genus consisting of a small number of tree species native to the Northern Hemisphere. They are the sole living members of the family Platanaceae. All members of Plantus are tall, reaching 30–50 m (98–164 ft) in height. All except for P. Kerrii are deciduous, and most are found in riparian or other wetland habitats in the wild, though proving drought-tolerant in cultivation. The hybrid London plane has proved particularly tolerant of urban conditions.

They are often known in English as planes or plane trees. Some North American species are called Sycamores (especially Platanus Occidentalis), although the term sycamore also refers to the Ficus Sycomorus, the plant originally so named, and to the Sycamore maple Acer Pseudoplatanus.

london plane leaves and fruit.job

Botany:

The flowers are reduced and are borne in balls (globose heads); 3–7 hairy sepals may be fused at the base, and the petals are 3–7 and are spatulate. Male and female flowers are separate, but borne on the same plant (monoecious). The number of heads in one cluster (inflorescence) is indicative of the species (see table below). The male flower has 3–8 stamens; the female has a superior ovary with 3–7 carpels. Plane trees are wind-pollinated. Male flower-heads fall off after shedding their pollen.

After being pollinated, the female flowers become achenes that form an aggregate ball. Typically, the core of the ball is 1 cm in diameter and is covered with a net of mesh 1 mm, which can be peeled off. The ball is 2.5–4 cm in diameter and contains several hundred achenes, each of which has a single seed and is conical, with the point attached downward to the net at the surface of the ball. There is also a tuft of many thin stiff yellow-green bristle fibers attached to the base of each achene. These bristles help in wind dispersion of the fruits as in the dandelion.

plane tree seed head

The leaves are simple and alternate. The mature bark peels off or exfoliates easily in irregularly shaped patches, producing a mottled, scaly appearance. On old trunks, bark may not flake off, but thickens and cracks instead.

Uses

The principal use of these trees is as ornamental trees, especially in urban areas and by roadsides. The London plane is particularly popular for this purpose. The American plane is cultivated sometimes for timber and investigations have been made into its use as a biomass crop. The oriental plane is widely used as an ornamental and also has a number of minor medicinal uses.

Cultural history

Most significant aspects of cultural history apply to Platanus orientalis in the Old World. The tree is an important part of the literary scenery of Plato’s dialogue Phaedrus. Because of Plato, the tree also played an important role in the scenery of Cicero’s De Oratore.

Champion Trees of Ireland

Champion Trees - a selection of Ireland's Great Trees- the tree council of Ireland

Two of the trees from Trinity College Dublin feature in this beautifully illustrated book Champion Trees, a selection of Ireland’s great trees.

Platanus orientalis (Oriental Plane Tree), Trinity College Dublin – 4.98 x 11.5 meters.

Acer macrophyllum (Oregon Maple Tree), Trinity College Dublin – 3.68 @ 1.05 x 16 meters – 2nd greatest girthed of its kind in Ireland.

Of note is that the two Oregon Maples in the main square are also thought to be the oldest trees on the Trinity College Dublin campus.

Science Notes: Plane Tree Nodules

The nodules on the plane trees give them an unusual knobbly shape. They are also unusual when viewed at high magnification in the scanning electron microscope. This SEM photo shows a rather messy, chaotic structure…

Plane Tree Nodules fig1 …which is very different from that of normal wood. For example here’s a picture Clodagh took of a twig from the Oregon maple, at the same magnification:

 Plane Tree Nodules fig2 This remarkably regular pattern of cells makes the wood very strong and light. The nodule is also made of cells, but they have grown in a chaotic, random pattern, creating material which is much weaker. This explains why these trees have made very thick trunks to support their weight. Nodular wood is much sought-after by woodturners because it makes a beautiful patterned surface when made into, for example, a bowl, but they know to treat it very carefully because it breaks easily.

Not all the wood in the plane trees is chaotic though. Clodagh found this area where the tree has managed to get back to something approaching a regular cellular structure:

Plane Tree Nodules fig3

David