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Products > Pseudobombax ellipticum 'Pink'
Pseudobombax ellipticum 'Pink' - Pink Shaving Brush Tree
Image of Pseudobombax ellipticum 'Pink'
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Malvaceae (w/Bombacaceae & Sterculeacea)
Origin: Mexico (North America)
Flower Color: Pink
Bloomtime: Spring
Synonyms: [Bombax ellipticum, Carolinea fastuosa]
Height: 15-20 feet
Width: 10-15 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30 F
Pseudobombax ellipticum 'Pink' (Pink Shaving Brush Tree) - A winter deciduous tree that can reach 30 feet or more with a trunk diameter of over 4 feet in its tropical native habitat but is seen here cultivated in California as a large shrub. It has a swollen smooth green trunk, often with a tortoise shell pattern and fissured with gray bark, short thick succulent stems and large palmately compound leaves with five elliptical rounded leaflets that first emerge am attractive red color and then turn dark green. The leaves can be up to 1 foot long by 7 inches wide and while the margins are entire like the white flowering form of the species, the edges of leaves of this pink flowering form are slightly undulated. In the spring, when the tree is still bare of leaves appear the long greenish black upright buds that open with green sepals pealing back and reflexing downwards to expose beautiful 5-inch-long reddish pink stamens, looking much like a pink shaving brush - these flowers only last a day. The flowers are sometimes followed by 6 inch long fruit which contains fine white hairs.

Plant in full to partial sun and irrigate regularly when in leaf, especially if growing in a container. It is fairly drought tolerant where one can grow in the ground but is sensitive to cold so this can only be done in near frost-free climates. It tolerates temperatures that drop for short durations down into the high 20s but best to protect even from these temperatures. Our outdoor specimens of the white flowering form survived undamaged the January 2007 freeze (3 nights at 25 with just a blanket of frost cloth thrown over them) but this pink flower form seems to be a bit more sensitive to cold wet winters and we have seen tip die back after nighttime temperatures just below freezing. After flowering and as the leaves emerge is the best time to trim this plant for shape.

Pseudobombax ellipticum is native to southern Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras where it can typically be found growing in dry and rocky locations. It is a very ornamental plant and native cultures within its natural range likely planted it for this purpose but also planted it as a living fence and used its wood for firewood and for carving dishes. Its seed could be toasted and eaten and the fruit fibers (kapok) was used to fill pillows and as insulation. Its importance to the Mayan civilizations is evidenced by theits presence in the artwork on ceramic pieces. The plant was first described in 1822 as Bombax ellipticum by the German botanist Carl Sigismund Kunth and later reclassified to its current name by Columbian botanist Armando Dugand in 1943. The name for the genus is the combination of the Latin and Greek words 'bombax' meaning cotton 'pseudo' meaning "false" in reference to this plant previously being placed in the genus Bombax, whose name came from the cottony white fibers, called kapok, that surround the seeds. Long considered in its own family, the Bombacaceae, the current treatment has transferred them to the subfamily Bombacoideae within the family Malvaceae. The specific epithet is the is in reference to the elliptic shape of the leaflets.

The pink flower form of this species is rarely seen in California gardens but we also grow the white flowering form that is more common in the wild in Mexico and in California gardens, listing it as Pseudobombax ellipticum. This pink flowering form, while rare in California gardens, is the form more often seen in gardens in Mexico and Florida. Our thanks to South African plantsman Lourens Grobler for providing us with the seedlings of this beautiful plant. 

This information about Pseudobombax ellipticum 'Pink' 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.