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Last Update 03/26/11
Plant of the Month

 Ceiba speciosa, formerly Chorisia speciosa

 Silk Floss Tree

Considered one of the most beautiful trees in the world, the Silk Floss Tree is a deciduous tropical plant from Brazil and Argentina. Chorisia is a large tree which can grow to over 50 feet high with a spread as wide. Floss Silk Tree is well known for the large spikes protecting the trunk and limbs and the woody seed-pods which produce a soft silk that protects its seeds. The silk in the seeds pods was used to stuff life-jackets and pillows in an earlier time in history.

Ceiba speciosa tree, mostly bare in late spring with fruit pods.

Ceiba speciosa tree, mostly bare in late spring. Green fruit pods visible near top of tree.

Thick conical prickles store water for dry times in younger trees, the trunk is green due to its high chlorophyll content, which makes it capable of performing photosynthesis when leaves are absent.

The Silk Floss Tree belongs to the same family as the baobab and the kapok. The trunk of the Silk Floss Tree is bottle-shaped, generally bulging in its lower third, measuring up to 7 ft in girth. The thick conical prickles store water for dry times. In younger trees, the trunk is green due to its high chlorophyll content, which makes it capable of performing photosynthesis when leaves are absent; with age it turns to gray.

The pear-shaped fruits are lignous pods, 8 in long, which contain bean-sized black seeds surrounded by a mass of fibrous, fluffy matter reminiscent of cotton or silk.

The pear-shaped fruits are lignous pods, 8 in long, which contain pea-sized black seeds surrounded by a mass of fibrous, fluffy matter reminiscent of cotton or silk.

An open fruit pod, displaying the silk-like fibers that give the tree its name, Silk Floss Tree.

An open fruit pod, displaying the silk-like fibers that give the tree its name, Silk Floss Tree.

Common Name:   Silk Floss Tree

Botanical Name:   Ceiba speciosa, formerly Chorisia speciosa

Family:  Bombacaceae

Plant Type:  Deciduous tree

Origin: Brazil, Argentina

Zones: 9 - 11 (saplings are sensitive to frost, but mature trees can tolerate temperatures to 20 degrees F for short periods of time).

Height:  35 to 50' -- width about the same so give it room

Rate of Growth: Fast the first couple years, then slows considerably

Salt Tolerance: Medium

Soil Requirements:  Well drained, moist, fertile humus

Water Requirements: Water moderately, less water in winter

Nutritional Requirements: Balanced liquid fertilizer monthly

Light Requirements: Full sun

Form:  Round

Leaves: Alternate, 5-7-palmate leaves

Flowers:  Open, funnel-shaped flowers in October-November

Fruits: Woody pods filled with fluffy silk

Pests:  Young plants affected by scale insects

Uses:  Specimen tree, recommended for buffer strips around parking lots or for median strip plantings in the highway, shade tree, residential street tree

Bad Habits: Leaf drop, fruit (pods) hard on lawn mowers and should be picked up before cutting turf under the tree

Cost:  $$ -- reasonable

Propagation:   sow seeds from spring to early summer

Related Link

Source:  A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden PlantsFlowering Trees of Florida

 

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