Common name: Wellingtonia (Giant Redwood)
Scientific name: Sequoiadendron giganteum
Introduction: Known as one of the largest trees on Earth, Wellingtonia is an evergreen conifer that is non-native to the UK. They have a lifespan of 3000+ years and can reach great heights.
Leaves: Small, blue-green, awl-shaped leaves. They form in spirals from the shoot and tend to be spikey.
Buds: Scaleless winter buds.
Bark: Bright red-brown. It is very thick (some mature trees’ bark can reach up to 2ft) yet is soft and spongy with deep furrows. Wellingtonia bark also has fire-proof qualities.
Form: Wellingtonia trees form into large-conical shapes and can reach huge heights. Trunk diameters on average range from 6-8m.
Wellingtonias struggle to reproduce as they require full-sun and mineral-rich soils that are free from competing vegetation. They reproduce through seeds, and typically, these seedlings are germinated after ripe cones fall from a parent tree’s branches and if in the right conditions will root itself. Alternatively, they can reproduce by stump sprouting. Young trees bear seed cones after their first 12 years. These seed cones take a while to mature (between 18-20 months) and remain green and closed for a further 20 years before they are ready to ‘regenerate’.
The seedlings of a Wellingtonia have a slow growth rate within the first six months of their life despite growing to great heights.
The Wellingtonia has many names, including ‘Giant Redwood’ or ‘Giant Sequoia’. In the mid-1800s the large tree came to the UK and was assigned the name ‘Wellingtonia [gigantea]’, to commemorate the deceased Duke of Wellington. Native American tribes knew of its existence before it was discovered by Europeans and would refer to the species with a range of names including ‘Wawona’ and ‘Toos-Pung-ish’.
Wellingtonia typically requires forest fires to reproduce (their cones tend to open-up after a fire due to hot air which rises in the canopy) but to also reduce the risk of infestation of carpenter ants. As the tree is non-native to the UK, there is not much local habitat for these UK species.
Properties of Wellingtonia Wood and its Uses
Despite being highly resistant to decay, Wellingtonia wood is unsuitable for construction due to its fibrous and brittle nature. However, younger trees of the Wellingtonia species are less fragile, and research is being conducted into whether it can be used as timber. Additionally, Wellingtonia bark was traditionally used as an insulation material as it has fire-resisting qualities, alongside being used for fishing floats and even furniture stuffing.
Associated Pests and Diseases:
Longhorn beetles tend to lay their eggs in Wellingtonia cones and the larvae of which then bores holes into them, making the cones week and more likely to drop. However, this does aid in the reproduction of this species.
Pruning and Pruning Qualities: Generally speaking, Wellingtonias typically require no pruning but will respond well if pruned. They can also benefit from the occasional trimming of branches to help maintain the size of the tree too. If you do choose to prune your Wellingtonia, then this should be carried out when it’s in its dormant period of late winter. Additionally, like all trees, you should remove any dead or diseased branches.
Growth Rate After Pruning: N/A.
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