All mature members of Platanus 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 (Platanus × acerifolia) has proved particularly tolerant of urban conditions, and has been widely planted in London and elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
They are often known in English as planes or plane trees. A formerly used name that is now rare is plantain tree (not to be confused with other, unrelated, species with the name). Some North American species are called sycamores (especially Platanus occidentalis), although the term is also used for several unrelated species of trees. The genus name Platanus comes from Ancient Greek πλάτανος, which referred to Platanus orientalis.