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Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) has rounded lobes; the maples that are more likely to be confused with this are Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) and Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum). However maples have leaves in opposite pairs, and this has alternate (one per node) leaves, so it is clearly not a maple.
You should have noticed the distinctive bark of London Plane. Sycamore has smooth grey bark (but not as smooth and grey as beech).
Thanks for the help lavaterguy, Im new to this and enjoying the experience. I never thought to look at the bark when identifying trees, I mainly just looked at the leaves. Would you know of an identification key that also considers the bark and not just the leaves?
I know that there are keys for identifying trees by the twigs and buds, for identification in winter, but I couldn't point to one offhand.
I don't recall an actual key for bark, but the older (Mitchell) version of Collins' Field Guide to Trees described the flowers, fruits, bark and foliage of most species.
There are all sorts of traits that help identifying trees (and plants in general) some of which are more helpful with some groups and some of which are more helpful with other groups. The gross shape of leaves is just one, and with variation within species, and similarity between species, is not always conclusive. Even with leaves there are other traits, such as phyllotaxis (how the leaves are arranged on the stem - which as described above distinguishes Acer from Platanus (and Liquidambar.
Bark isn't usually a particularly helpful trait, but Mitchell gives about 30 species with distinctive bark features. Among these Platanus hispanica is described as have brown bark, losing large flakes leaving yellow bark behind. (Which doesn't really capture the reality - a mature plane has large patches of uniformly coloured bark, varying from pale yellow to brown.)
Planes also have distinctive fruits - a fuzzy brown ball about the size of a horse chestnut fruit.
You can also look at habit (shape of the tree), flowers, fruits (many tree genera are easily identified from their fruit), galls, etc.
With experience you learn which traits to look for particular types of trees.
Thats great, thanks for your help. I must try and get myself a copy of the Collins' Field Guide to Trees.
You can (or could) get the new version (Collins Complete British Trees) by Paul Sterry in The Works (a remainder bookshop). They also have Sterry's equivalent book on wild flowers.
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