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Silk Floss Tree

Chorisia speciosa

COMMON NAMES:  silk floss tree, kapok, floss silk tree, ceiba del Brasil

FAMILY:  Bombacaceae (Bombax or Baobab Family)

HABIT:  Silk floss tree is an awkwardly branched 30-60 ft. tree with pale green leaves palmately divided into 5-7 pointed leaflets. Young trees start out growing fast, straight, and narrow, then slowly develop broadly spreading umbrella canopies. The bulbous green trunk is covered with blunt warty triangular spines and turns gray as the tree gets older. It typically drop its leaves just before it puts on their spectacular autumn display of five-petaled flowers. The petals vary from pale pink to rose to purple or burgundy at the tips into ivory with brownish spots or blotches at the base. Flowers are followed by pear shaped fruit filled with many seeds embedded in silky white floss.

CULTURE:  Native to Brazil and Argentina, but it is cultivated in many tropical areas. This tree does not do well in competition with lawn grasses. Needs full sun and requires well-drained soil. It blooms best when it is watered regularly, but needs to be on the dry side in late summer.

HARDINESS:  USDA Zones 9 - 11. Silk floss trees will drop their leaves when the temperature falls below 27ºF, but established specimens have been known to survive freezes down to 20ºF. Protect young trees from freezes.

PROPAGATION:  this tree rarely sets seed in cultivation outside the tropics and is reputedly difficult to propagate. Rooting semi-ripe tip cuttings taken during a period of rapid shoot growth works fairly well.

USAGE:  Flowering specimen tree. The seedpod silk has been used to stuff cushions. This is a great exotic looking tree for quickly creating tropical effects. It can grow 3-5 ft per year and is a great conversation piece.

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