Sweetgum is in the genus Liquidambar, which consists of four species of flowering plants in the family Altingiaceae, three are Asian and one is native to North America. All are large, deciduous trees with palmately lobed leaves (maple-like) arranged spirally on the stems. The fruit is a woody multiple capsule (called a "gumball"), containing numerous seeds.

Sweetgums are noted for brilliant autumn color, with reds so intense they become purple. The only drawback to a sweetgum might be the litter of the "gumballs". Fortunately newer cultivars have reduced, or eliminated these altogether, and one of these new varieties is Worplesdon sweetgum, or Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’. It is a superior form of the North American species, Liquidambar styraciflua. Not only has it eliminated gumballs, but it has a different leaf shape. Whereas the typical Sweetgum resembles a maple leaf, Worplesdon sweetgum leaf resembles something more like a Japanese maple leaf, due to its long and narrow lobes.

It has a rounded, heavy crown, and although it grows slowly, it is not suitable for a small garden, as it is long-lived and will eventually exceed 75 feet or more. Its flowers appear intermittently in spring but are inconspicuous. It is the foliage that makes any Sweetgum desirable, and Worplesdon sweetgum’s long narrow lobes look quite elegant in spring, summer and autumn. And in autumn they turn into a conflagration of reds, oranges and yellows. It is the ideal specimen tree, bold in texture, dominant in color and impressive in its proportions. But if it must share the spotlight, grow it alongside yellow-leaved Ashes.

Worplesdon sweetgum will thrive in rich, damp soil in full sun, to color best. It has few pests or diseases and it grows across a vast range of temperatures. It is quite popular in the UK and becoming more so in the US, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Another beautiful improvement on the species is 'Rotundiloba' sweetgum.


‘Worplesdon’ Sweetgum

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