Floss Silk Tree
Palo Borracho (drunken stick or tree)
Malvaceae (includes Bombacaceae)
Native to (or naturalized in) Oregon:
- Broadleaf, semi-deciduous, large tree, to 60 ft high and 30 ft wide (18 × 9 m). Trunks of young trees are greenish but turn gray with age and can be studded with large conical spines. The lower trunk may also become swollen. Leaves are alternate, palmately compound, with 6-8 lanceolate leaflets, each about 12.5 × 3.5 cm, the tip is acute and margin serrate. Bloom occurs in summer (with leaves) or fall (even after leaf drop), the flower is showy, about 10 cm across, with 5 spreading, oblong petals, each to 10 cm long, white to cream at the base and the upper part pale-pink to rose with the addition of yellow or white and often spotted with purple or brown. The fruit, a dehiscent capsule, is ovoid and about 20 cm long; in spring it splits open to release fingers of white cotton-like fibers and numerous black seeds.
- Full sun for best flowering, well-drained, moist soil, some drought resistance when established.
- Hardy to USDA Zone 9. Reportedly leaves drop when temperatures sink below 27° F. A large tree in front of a nursery in Santa Barbara, California survived a low temperature of 18° F without any major damage. A South American tree, and its natural range extends from southern Brazil to eastern Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and northeastern Argentina; a frequent street tree in Buenos Aires.
- This tree has long been grown in California under its previous name of Chorisia speciosa. It was introduced into California by Dr. Francisco Franceschi (Fenzi) of Santa Barbara in 1900 and there are large specimens in this city that were planted in 1960. Sunset Western Garden Book lists two selections: ‘Los Angeles Beautiful’, with wine-red flowers, and ‘Majestic Beauty’, thornless and with rich pink flowers.
- Some taxonomy: The tree was considered to be in the genus Chorisia and in the Bombax family (Bombacaceae); now some authorities have transferred it to the subfamily Bombacoideae within the Mallow family, the Malvaceae, and into the genus Ceiba. This is the same genus of the tropical Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra) which also has silky floss in its seed pods. Other authorities still recognize Chorisia as the genus name.