COMMON NAMES: PARASOL TREE, CHINESE PARASOL TREE, CHINESE VARNISH-TREE, PHOENIX-TREE, BOTTLE-TREE, CHINESE BOTTLE TREE, JAPANESE VARNISH TREE, PHOENIXTREE
Firmiana simplex (fir-me-AHN-ah sim-plex)
Sterculiaceae (Chocolate or Cacao Family)
Deciduous shade tree
HEIGHT: 30 to 60 feet
SPREAD: 30 to 40 feet
FINAL SPACING: 20 to 50 feet
NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Native of Japan and China, cultivated in the United States and escaped to various parts of the south now. It grows well in a wide variety of soils from sand to heavy clays.
IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: Distinctive upright tree with smooth green bark, a rounded crown and very large leaves and dramatic seeds that mature in the fall.
FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Yellowish-green flowers in June or July followed by showy brown fruit. Flowers are 4 to 12 inches long, terminal panicles, male and female plants on the same tree (monoecious).
BARK: Unusual smooth green bark even on the mature tree trunks.
FOLIAGE: Leaves are alternate, simple, deciduous fall color is yellow. Leaves are large 5 to 18 inches, usually 3 blades, dull green, slightly hairy above and below.
CULTURE: Parasol tree is easy to grow in a wide range of soils given a moderate amount of moisture and fertilizer. It is relatively drought tolerant.
PROBLEMS: Few serious problems other than the tree has weak wood and is relatively short lived. Some people think it is too coarse. I think it is an interesting looking tree, although I wouldn’t plant a lot of them.
PROPAGATION: Easy to grow from seed planted fresh immediately after maturing. They can be saved at cool temperatures for some period of time.
INSIGHT: Parasol tree is easy to grow from seed. It can become a pest from seedlings popping up all over the garden unless the beds are heavily mulched.