This month, our tree specialists at Glendale Civic Trees recommend the largest tree in the world by volume, Sequoiadendron giganteum Wellingtonia.

Where does it grow?

Sequoiadendron giganteum Wellingtonia is a species of Cypress native to California.  It is found in a limited number of groves across the iconic Sierra Nevada mountain range at altitudes of 900 to 2,400 metres.  The tree was first introduced into the UK in the 1850s by Cornish plant collector William Lobb who was fascinated by this larger-than-life conifer.

The tree was given it’s British moniker, ‘Wellingtonia’  by John Lindley from the Horticultural Society of London after the then recently deceased Duke of Wellington.  Although this name has since ceased to be recognised botanically, it has remained as an affectionate term for this popular specimen in the UK.

Why is is cultivated?

In Britain, the tree was traditionally planted as a symbol of status and wealth amongst aristocrats and royalty.  They are now often the only lasting reminder of many grand country estates that once adorned the British landscape.  

In America, the naturally occurring giant redwoods in California are an ecotourism attraction, pulling in visitors worldwide for a glimpse of one of nature’s true giants.  It is also a flagship species for conservation.

What conditions does it prefer?

Sequoiadendron giganteum Wellingtonia likes well-drained soil conditions and thrives equally well in both exposed or sheltered conditions.  The tree is well suited to sand, chalk or loam soils.

What does it look like up close?

This tall evergreen matures into a dense, conical shape with down-swept, ‘shaggy’ branches, starting part way up its vast pillar of a stem.  The tree has red-brown bark with a unique spongy texture and its leaves are short and taper to a slender, stiff point.  It has oval-shaped cones that turn a deep red-brown at maturity.

Any distinctive features?

The Sequoiadendron giganteum Wellingtonia’s most distinctive feature is its size.  In fact it is so large that when it was first discovered in the mid-19th century many believed it to be a hoax.

The tallest specimen currently on record is an incredible 94.9 metres tall (taller than the statue of liberty) and can be found at Kings Canyon National Park in California.  However this isn’t the most well-known specimen, that title belongs to General Sherman, an 83.6m goliath that holds the world record for the largest known stem volume, a staggering 1,486 cubic metres of timber.   

Our recommendations

Deric Newman, sales manager at Civic Trees, says: “This is a spectacular, long-lived tree, perfect as a feature in an arboretum or parkland area where there’s plenty of space for it to grow to its full, towering potential.  

“However, where Wellingtonia is perhaps at its most inspiring is when it’s used in long avenues, lining driveways or screening properties, echoing its natural tendency to occur in groves.  One of the most famous avenues, planted in 1863 and featuring Wellingtonia over 45 metres tall, can be found at Benmore Botanic Garden in Scotland.  

“When given plenty of space to grow without restraints this species thrives in the UK thanks to our temperate climate and the fact that it is a vigorous grower.  That said,  it takes up to 50 years for the Wellingtonia to reach 40 metres tall so we’d recommend planting a mature specimen to achieve the full impact of this giant in your landscape instantly.

“Finally, to answer a frequent concern about these trees, although they are a prime candidate for lighting strikes due to their size, the bark of the Sequoiadendron giganteum is actually fire resistant, an adaptation it developed in its native California in order to withstand forest fires.  They are also typically unaffected by storms and strong winds.  

To find out more about the tree of the month and if it will work well in your project contact our team: 0208 950 4491 or info@civictrees.co.uk.  Did you enjoy this article?  Why not try January’s Tree of the Month here.