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Products > Ceiba speciosa
Ceiba speciosa - Floss Silk Tree
Image of Ceiba speciosa
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Malvaceae (w/Bombacaceae & Sterculeacea)
Origin: Brazil (South America)
Flower Color: Pink
Bloomtime: Summer/Fall
Synonyms: [Chorisia speciosa]
Height: 40-60 feet
Width: 20-40 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30 F
Ceiba speciosa (Floss Silk Tree) - This large semi-deciduous tree has several unique and attractive characteristics. It can grow to about 60 feet tall and 30 feet wide but most noticeable are the studded large conical prickles on the greenish trunk and branches, which can be somewhat dangerous to a careless passer-by, but are also quite attractive. The branches hold a palmately compound leaf with 6 to 8 leaflets that are 3 to 5 inches long and in summer into fall appear the large showy pale-pink to rose-colored flowers with five frilly petals and a cream to yellow center. In southern California trees in spectacular bloom can be seen from a distance, often while driving at "freeway speed" and signals to many that the fall season has finally arrived. These flowers are followed by large capsules that split open the following spring to release fingers of white flossy hairs. Plant in full sun with well-draining soil and irrigate occasionally to very little. It has proven hardy to below 20 F but loses foliage below 27 F - a large tree in front of our nursery survived our 1990 low temperatures of 18 F without any major damage. This tree has long been grown in California under its previous name, Chorisia speciosa, and was placed in the Bombax family (Bombacaceae), the current treatment has it subsumed into the genus Ceiba with other kapoks as Ceiba speciosa in the subfamily Bombacoideae within the Mallow family, the Malvaceae. Its older name honored Louis (or Ludovik/Ludwig) Choris, a Russian artist who sailed on several late 18th century Russian exploratory expeditions. The name Ceiba comes from a Spanish language interpretation of a Caribbean Taino word meaning a "giant tree". The specific epithet speciosa means "showy" in reference to the tree in flower. The hairs or floss surrounding the seed is used to stuff pillows in this tree's native habitat, which ranges from southern Brazil into northeast Argentina and Paraguay, and is why this tree is often called Floss Silk Tree. It and other Ceiba species are sometimes called Palo Borracho, which means "drunken tree" in Spanish, because older trees sometimes have awkward branches and a bent over upper trunk. It is also called arbol botella (Bottle Tree) or Toborochi Tree which apparently means "tree of refuge" or "sheltering tree". This species was first introduced into California by Dr. Francisco Franceschi (Fenzi) of Santa Barbara in 1900. There are enormous large specimens in Santa Barbara on Yanonali and Voluntario streets that were planted in 1960. A tree on the grounds of the Hotel Bel-Air in West Los Angeles planted in the early 1900s is now more than 90 feet tall with a trunk circumference of 13 feet around. It is thought to be the oldest and largest pink floss-silk tree in the US and has been called the single most spectacular flowering tree in the country. In Santa Barbara there is another species of Ceiba occasionally seen, Ceiba insignis, which was also once in the genus Chorisia and it has white flowers. There is a nice specimen of it in Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens in downtown Santa Barbara. 

This information about Ceiba speciosa displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.