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LIQUIDAMBAR STYRACIFLUA WORPLESDON – Sweet Gum
Often mistaken for a maple, the sweet gum has similarly-shaped five-lobed leaves. However, while the leaves on the maple are arranged in opposite pairs, those of the Liquidambar appear alternately. Like maple, it is mainly grown for its autumn colour, the leaves turning brilliant shades of purple, crimson, orange and yellow, making it a popular ornamental tree.
Sweet gum is another early introduction from the eastern states of America, where it is often found in swampy regions. In these conditions it can grow as tall as 45m (150ft) but is often much shorter and rarely grows to half that height in Britain.
Liquidambar 'Worplesdon' is a selected variety of sweet gum chosen for its reliability in producing fiery shades of red, orange and yellow in the autumn (although autumn colour is variable year to year due to number of factors). It is fairly fast growing tree with an even, upright, conical habit.
Where to grow
Liquidambar grows in moist fertile soils, preferring warm summers and a bit of protection to grow well. It is perfectly hardy in the UK, however when planted in windy spots the top branches can snap off - it is therefore best planted in a sheltered spot.
Did you know?
A Spanish naturalist by the name of Hernandez was the first European to discover the tree in the early 16th century. It was given its botanical name because of its aromatic gum, which he described as 'liquid amber'. It wasn't until 1681 that it was finally introduced to Britain by the missionary plant collector John Bannister.
Worplesdon is a village in Surrey which is home to Merrist Wood College, one of the foremost arboriculture colleges in the UK and near to the famous nursery growing area of Woking.
- Medium - 10-15 metres
- 5-10 metres
Shape / Habit
- Light sandy
- Full sun
Difficulty / Hard to Grow
Evergreen / Deciduous
- Late to leaf
- Parkland Tree
- Garden Tree
- City/Urban Sites
- Wet/Water logged sites
- Needs shelter
Pruning Liquidambar Styraciflua Worplesdon
Liquidambar Styraciflua Worplesdon has a natural pyramidal shape to the crown and well-spaced branches. This means that very little pruning is needed on established trees.
When training a young tree there should be a naturally strong leader, but if there are competing leaders remove these. If left to establish they will dramatically affect the appearance of the tree.
What time of year should I prune? Prune from late autumn to early spring. This is when the tree is dormant.
For the continued healthy growth of your trees, shrubs or hedging it is vital that you follow the advice below.
The main reason that plants die within 12 months of having been planted is lack of water. It is essential throughout the spring and summer, to give a heavy enough watering to enable the water to penetrate right down to the deepest root level of the tree. In hot dry spells give the equivalent of 2 bucketfuls every three days.
One of the most common causes of lack of water is competition from grass. When trees are first establishing, the grass roots would be at the same level as the tree roots and are far more efficient at taking up water and thus choke the tree. It is vital that for at least 3 years after planting your tree or hedge has a circle or strip one metre wide completely free of grass.
- Mulch mats are an effective way to stop grass and weeds, although they will require a careful eye to make sure they continue to work. After clearing the ground around the tree, firmly fit the mat by tucking the edges into the soil and put a thick layer of bark mulch on top of this. Be careful not to allow the woodchip to touch the stem as it can cause rot.
- Weed killer is very effective, however it is harmful to the environment. Organic weed killers usually do not kill roots. Weed killer needs to be applied each year for the first 3 years, preferably when the tree is dormant, or just once before applying a mulch mat.
- Mowing or strimming is NOT an answer to the problem. Each time you mow, the grass will grow back more vigorously and strimming invariably leads to lacerated trunks.
If trees are not correctly secured they will rock in the planting pit. Roots not firmly in contact with the soil are unable to take up moisture and nutrients, resulting in die back or death of the tree. Check, particularly after windy weather, that stakes are still solidly in the ground keeping the base of the trunk firm. The purpose of the stakes is to anchor the roots. Flexing in the wind, higher up the trunk, is not necessarily a problem if the roots are firm.
Bellow is list of the correct system to use to secure your trees.
- 40/60, 60/80, 80/100 whips - Unless rabbit/deer problem no need to stake.
- 100/125, 125/150 1.2m Cane and Easi tie.
- 150/175 1.2m square stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
- 175/250, 6/8, 8/10 15L 1.65 Tree stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
- All larger trees. 2 x 1.65 Tree stake and cross rail with 38mm cushion spacer and 1m of 38mm strapping.
Always use our recommended tree ties or strapping. These are designed and manufactured with the correct amount of give to hold the tree firm without strangling it. They should be checked at the end of each growing season for adjustment as the trunk thickens. Non proprietary materials such as baler twine will cut into the bark and should not be used.
Protection from Animal Damage
Rabbits, deer, sheep, cattle and horses can all potentially damage trees. Ask us for advice on the most appropriate guards for your trees or hedge. Squirrels are also a terrible pest when trees get to about 20ft tall but there is no protection available.
Are the delivery costs the same no matter how many plants I order?
Yes the delivery costs are the same no matter how many plants you have on your order. They are worked out based on your distance from our nursery and can be found here.