For a busy urban garden at the heart of London which see over 5.5 million visitors a year, Jubilee Gardens is packed with trees and a surprising variety of tree species. There are almost 90 standalone trees in Jubilee Gardens, spread mostly around the outside of the space to create a sense of enclosure and frame important views while leaving plenty of open sunny spots for visitors to enjoy. The design pays tribute to England’s rich arboricultural history – in line with tradition, ‘old fashioned’ and much-loved native tree species were reintroduced alongside ornamental exotics.
The first tree of the redesigned Jubilee Gardens, a Liquidambar styraciflua (or Sweetgum), was lowered into position by a small crane on 7th February 2012. A mixture of semi-mature and young trees were planted to give immediate visual impact while also allowing the Gardens to mature and develop slowly over time.
There are nine different tree species in Jubilee Gardens which have been chosen to be appropriate for the site conditions and climate, to optimise biodiversity and ensure that the park provides interest all year round.
The Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica), a native tree, was selected for its contribution to biodiversity as it is a host for a variety of flora and fauna. In early spring long slender buds create a spectacular light-green hue, while the flowers are small catkins which develop small triangular beechnuts – an important food for birds, squirrels and historically also for people. The ornamental deciduous tree lives on average 150-200 years. Most of the Beech trees in Jubilee Gardens are found on the north and northeast of the park, in the areas closest to Hungerford car park.
The strangely named Bald Cypress (Taxodium districhum) is a striking species of conifer, native to south-eastern North America. It was introduced to Britain in 1640 by the famous plant hunter John Tradescant the Younger, can reach 35m tall and commonly lives over 200 years. The species was selected for its soft light, feathery foliage and orange-brown autumn colour as well as its columnar shape which distinctly contrasts with the other broadleaved spreading canopy trees in the Gardens. The Bald Cypresses are found on the south and south-east side of the park, particularly around the playground.
Large Leaf Linden
There are a small number of Large Leaf Linden trees (Tilia platyphyllos), spread out along the south of the Gardens and in the centre of the park. This beautiful native deciduous tree has a distinctive narrow domed shape and small, fragrant yellowish-white flowers in drooping clusters. The fruit is a small, round, cream-coloured nutlet while in autumn the foliage turns a striking yellow-green to yellow colour. Traditionally Tilia platyphyllos was once used for various medicinal purposes including as an antispasmodic, a sedative and a treatment for migraines.
The Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) was originally from eastern North America – it had arrived in Europe by 1770 but was not recorded in Britain until after 1800. The Pin Oak was selected for several of its physical features: It has sharply pointed lobed leaves which turn reddish-brown to bright crimson in autumn, and distinct horizontal branching which provide winter interest even once all the leaves have fallen. Our Pin Oaks are mostly found in the northwestern quadrant of the gardens near the Queen’s Walk and fairground.
Jubilee Gardens is home to many quintessential English Oaks (Quercus robur) spread throughout the park. A much-loved large and long-lived, native deciduous tree with lobed and very short-stalked leaves, rugged branches and dark tough bark, modest flowers in mid-spring and acorns in the autumn. The English Oak is valued for its importance to insects and other wildlife and it naturally supports the highest biodiversity of insect herbivores of any British plant. The acorns form a valuable food resource for several small mammals, including our resident friendly squirrels, and some birds.
Liquidambar / Sweetgum
Liquidambar styraciflua, also known as Sweetgum, is a deciduous tree native to eastern North America. It was introduced into Europe in 1681 by John Banister, and first planted in the palace gardens at Fulham. The leaves are palmate, similar to those of some maples with five sharply pointed lobes, and are a glossy rich dark green colour. The leaves turn brilliant orange, red, and purple in the autumn in a conflagration of colour which unique and striking. Our Liquidambars are clustered on the middle of the north edge of the park and towards the river side of the southern edge. There are also two large specimens taking pride of place at the northern tip of the adventure playground.
Jubilee Gardens also has London Plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia) which were retained from the old park when it was redeveloped in 2012. The site is surrounded by London Planes – the Queen’s Walk along the riverfront is lined with them while there are also multiple specimens on Belvedere Road and in Hungerford car park. These are popular city trees with more than half of London’s trees being London Planes. They can be identified by their grey bark which sheds leaving large patches of pale green and creamy yellow fresh wood – it does this as a response to pollution which can clog the pores of the bark. Flowers appear as small balls on long stems in spring, maturing to produce the ‘pom-pom’ seed heads which can be seen on the bare branches in winter.
In March 2022, we planted a new species of tree in Jubilee Gardens – three Field Maple Queen Elizabeth trees (Acer campestre ‘Evelyn’) as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy. This is a nationwide initiative originally created to mark the Platinum Jubilee in 2022 creating a living legacy in Her Majesty’s name. Field Maple Queen Elizabeth is a vigorous and compact deciduous tree with leaves which turn butter yellow in the autumn. It will tolerate drought and air pollution so is ideal for our city position, plus it’s small flowers are good for bees and insects. The trees are small now but will grow and develop over the years to become part of the beautiful canopy of Jubilee Gardens.
Most recently we have planted a Beech and Hornbeam hedge along the perimeter adjacent to County Hall thus introducing an additional species of tree to Jubilee Gardens. The trees that make up this hedge are not counted in the ‘standalone’ figure of 90 trees within the park as they are not specimen trees and will instead grow as part of the hedge ecosystem.
European / Common Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) is a tough, broadleaf, semi-evergreen tree, native to the UK that can live for more than 300 years. Hornbeam has pale grey bark bearing vertical markings and with age the trunk can become distinctively twisted and ridged. Nicknamed ‘ironwood’, Hornbeam is traditionally a symbol of strength due to its immensely hard, robust wood and was the conventional material for making wood-axled cartwheels and gears in early machinery, such as cogs in windmills and watermills.
Similar in likeness to Beech, the oval leaves have pointed tips but are smaller with ‘toothed’ or serrated edges and deep veins marking the differences. In the autumn, colours usually range from deep burnt oranges to golden yellows, with leaves tending to stay on during much of the winter, except in the harshest of years, providing colour right through until spring. Catkins appear in early summer – each tree produces both male and female catkins which are pollinated by the wind. After pollination these develop into tiny nuts protected in papery, green winged rosettes of bracts. These are quite decorative and will stay on the tree through winter adding further interest. As a native tree Hornbeam is beloved of local wildlife including iconic birds like Blackbirds, Finches, Thrushes and Wrens, some of which are in decline or struggling for habitats.
We hope you enjoy the beauty of the different tree species in Jubilee Gardens this #NationalTreeWeek View images of the Gardens and some of our tree species here.