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A Floridata Plant Profile #845 Chorisia speciosa
Common Names: silk floss tree, kapok, floss silk tree, ceiba del brasil
Family: Bombacaceae (bombax or baobab Family)
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tree  Fast Growing Flowers

silk floss tree
A mature silk floss tree towers over its home at Miami's Fairchild Tropical Garden. In October the tree drops its leaves only to burst into bloom in November.
Silk floss tree is an awkwardly branched 30-60 ft (9.1-18.3 m) tree with pale green leaves palmately divided into 5-7 pointed leaflets. The young trees start out growing fast, straight, and narrow, then slowly develop broadly spreading umbrella canopies as they age. The bulbous green trunk is covered with big blunt warty triangular spines and turns gray as the tree gets older. Silk floss trees typically drop their leaves just before they put on their spectacular autumn display of five-petaled flowers. The petals vary from pale pink to rose to purple or burgundy at the tips and grade into ivory with brownish spots or blotches at the base. The flowers are followed by pear shaped capsules filled with many seeds embedded in silky white floss. Chorisia taxonomy has not been refined and the flowers of this "species" are extremely variable, so there is a good chance that several different species and/or hybrids thereof are lumped under the name C. speciosa.

silk floss flower
Silk floss tree flower
Silk floss tree is native to Brazil and Argentina, but it is cultivated in many tropical areas. It grows well in parts of southern California.

Mulch the root zone. This tree does not do well in competition with lawn grasses.
Light: Full sun.
Moisture: Silk floss tree requires well-drained soil. It blooms best when it is watered regularly most of the time, but kept a bit on the dry side in late summer.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 9B - 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. Some success can be obtained by rooting semi-ripe tip cuttings taken during a period of rapid shoot growth in a closed container with bottom heat.

The spiny trunk makes the silk floss tree a favorite of masochistic tree climbers.
Silk floss tree is cultivated as a 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 (0.9-1.5 m) per year when young and never fails to attract comments with its spiny green trunk and beautiful flowers that cover a bare tree.

Linda Conway Duever 11/1/00; updated 11/26/03

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