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Products > Cordia decandra
Cordia decandra - Carbonillo
Image of Cordia decandra
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Boraginaceae (Borages)
Origin: Chile (South America)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: White
Bloomtime: Winter/Spring
Height: 8-12 feet
Width: 8-12 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): No Irrigation required
Winter Hardiness: 30-32 F
May be Poisonous  (More Info): Yes
Cordia decandra (Carbonillo) A large shrub or small tree 10 to 15 feet tall with a crooked gray barked trunk of very dense wood and narrow wavy rough textured 1 to 2 inch long gray-green leaves that are densely clustered with short internodes along the brown stems. From winter long into spring appear the clusters of dark buds covered with black hairs that open into 1 inch wide white bell shaped flowers at branch tips and are followed by a woody fruit.

Plant in full sun with no irrigation required. This plant comes from an extremely dry area that experiences winter rainfall of 4 to 12 inches of rain per year with long droughts and years with no rainfall at all. Hardiness is not well known though some sources note it does not tolerate freezing or is hardy only to 30 F but the climate of its native habitat should experience relatively cool winters at elevation, so perhaps it will prove hardier. A very attractive plant that should be a good addition to our summer dry landscapes.

Cordia decandra is common in the transition between desert scrub and matorral (equivalent to our chaparral) from the Atacama and Coquimbo regions of Chile near the coast up to around 5,000 feet along north facing (towards the sun in southern hemisphere) slopes. The name for the genus honors the 16th century German botanists Euricius Cordus and his son Valerius Cordus and the specific epithet is Latin for "ten males" in reference to the flowers having ten stamens. The common name Carbonillo is thought to be a reference to the wood being used for the making of charcoal (carboncillo in Spanish) though some note it might also refer to the blackish colored flower buds. This plant has thrived in the UCLA Mildred Mathias Botanic Garden and at the Cal State Fullerton Arboretum where our plants originated from cuttings and the accompanying photographs were taken. Our thanks to Ken Greby and Don Hodel for arranging for these cuttings to get to us. 

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