The Worplesdon Sweetgum tree, scientifically known as Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’, is a captivating deciduous tree that stands out among the typical trees found in England due to its stunning autumnal coloration and unique star-shaped foliage.
The Worplesdon Sweetgum is a cultivar of the American sweetgum tree and is renowned for its excellent autumn colour and reliable performance in the British climate, making it an exciting choice for British garden design. It can live up to 150 years, growing steadily to reach heights of 20-25 metres (or even up to 35 metres in optimal conditions), which makes it suitable for larger garden spaces or parklands.
One of the distinguishing features of the Worplesdon Sweetgum is its foliage. The leaves are palmate, with five lobes, and have a resemblance to maple leaves. They provide a vibrant green canopy in spring and summer before transforming into an impressive display of fiery oranges, reds, purples, and yellows in the autumn, arguably one of the most spectacular autumn shows of any tree species.
The tree blooms with inconspicuous greenish-white flowers in late spring. Its seedpods, known as gumballs due to their spiky appearance, are unique and quite decorative, adding interest in the winter months after the leaves have fallen. These seedpods are filled with numerous small seeds, which disperse as the pod breaks apart.
The Worplesdon Sweetgum is an excellent choice for a British garden due to its year-round interest – vibrant green leaves in spring and summer, outstanding autumn colour, and interesting winter seedpods. It’s also tolerant of a variety of soil types and conditions, although it prefers a sunny, moist, and well-drained location to showcase its best autumn colours.
As for wildlife, the sweetgum provides food and habitat for various birds and small mammals. The seedpods serve as a food source for numerous bird species, and the tree’s dense growth offers shelter and nesting sites.
While the Worplesdon Sweetgum is not native to the UK, it is widely grown as a specimen tree in parks and gardens for its autumn colour. It’s not densely populated in any particular region but is found scattered across the country in urban and suburban areas, where its autumn beauty can be fully appreciated.
In conclusion, the Worplesdon Sweetgum is a brilliant addition to the British garden landscape. With its exceptional autumn display, interesting seedpods, and wildlife benefits, it’s a tree that truly offers multi-seasonal interest and beauty.