Silk Floss - Ceiba Speciosa

The Silk Floss tree (Ceiba speciosa or Chorisia speciosa) is very unique tree species from the subtropical regions of South America. The flowers of this tree range in color from creamy white to dark pink and white. It is sometimes confused with the "White Silk Floss tree".
It has taken me a full year of watching this tree species as it passed through the seasons to get this series of pictures. Yesterday I was finally able to get some good pictures of the puffy "silk" balls and the seeds. The pods in the picture above are about 5-6 inches long and are packed with a bunch of silky cotton-ball like puffs that each contain a seed. The way that this tree spreads its seeds is by the seed pod bursting open and letting the wind carry away the little silky puffs.
In the image above you can see one of the seed pods just after it has burst open and before any of the cotton-like wads have blown away. In the image below you can see another wad of silky puffs that is slowly letting the seeds drift away one at a time. You can see one black seed in this image.
The next image is of one of the individual seeds still attached to a small puff of the silky fibers that I picked up off the ground under the tree. There were several hundred of these in the grass under the tree. I hard a hard time getting a picture of this seed as there was a bit of a breeze which kept floating the little silky puff right out of my hand as it was a small down feather. They look like little cotton balls but they are a lot lighter. The seed itself is about 3 mm in diameter.
Another interesting feature of this tree are its thorns. To give an idea of their size and shape I took a picture with a Euro coin (slightly larger than a quarter). These are fairly representative of the thorn size although I have seen some that are at least twice this size.

30 comments:

  1. This tree is planted in the median of a street near where I work. (Huntington Beach, California) The pink flowers are really beautiful and I always wondered about those big seed pods. Thanks Dan, now I know!

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    1. can have the address i would like to go get some seeds my email davidc888@luckymail.co

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  2. Holy Cannoli! Those are scary thorns! I don't think I've ever seen this tree , ~ very pretty flowers, though.

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  3. I picked a pod off this tree and planted the seeds. I now have 10 baby trees, about 1 foot tall. How do I care for them so they will grow to maturity. I am in Florida.

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  4. Just been taking phots in the Real Alcazar gardens in Seville and i think it is of the same species you describe above. Very interesting blog, thankyou

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  5. I'm in HB California as well. I fell in love with this tree before this summer (never noticed it before moving to HB). As it started flowering, I realized these trees are everywhere along the 405 in Orange county. Disney has a magnificent one too! If you see someone "harvesting" seed pods please don't report me ;)

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  6. I have a 30+ year old tree in my yard, and the trunk is as green as bight clover. The seeds are easy to sprout in peat pots and then I transfer them to one gal then 5. They like to be watered the first 3 to 5 years moderately to lightly. Then just let them be I do not water my big tree at all just rain. If you over water they will rot or die, Very drought tolerant. The leaves drop in beg of August followed by brilliant pink blooms for up to a month depending on the heat. I live in Alpine east of San Diego.

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  7. Hi, You won't believe this but my mother is in an old age home in Cape Town, South Africa and in the grounds there is a Ceiba Speciosa Tree. I was fascinated by it as I have never seen anything like it. I have been battling to identify which tree it is and only when I went into the garden, did I see that the name was on a wooden plaque at the base of the tree. So, problem solved. Very interesting. Thanks for a good site. Jeanette

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  8. Great article you have here I was searching for "silk floss tree photos" and I came across your site.. very informative thanks for posting!

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  9. Hello,

    I live in Johannesburg, South Africa and have one of these trees in my garden. Can anybody tell me what root system this tree has? It was planted about 4m from my house and a surface root is uplifting some paving...

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  10. A friend photographed this tree in Lisbon and wondered what it was. I too saw it at the entrance to the Alcazar in Seville and discovered its Spanish name was Palo borracha or 'drunken tree' I found it growing in the garden of a kindergarten in Nha Trang, Vietnam and near the ruins of St Paul's in Macau on a recent trip to the Far East. From the Spanish name I was led to Ceiba speciosa and your brilliant photos

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  11. i have one that has survived with inadequate sun. just trimmed the other trees, should be getting much more sun but how much water should i give it. it is not in good shape, has very little leaves on it now. hope it will get better with more care soon. ceiba is the tree i am referring to.

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  12. Hello. I just collected some of the seed pods off some of these trees that are planted in Legg Lake Park in the Whittier Narrows area in Southern California. As for the question about the roots. I noticed some very large roots from some of these trees. These trees seem to be over 20 years old and have lost many of the thorns on their trunks. Years ago I planted one of these trees in a home I had and the thorns on the trunk were huge. I have not seen another tree with thorns as large as the ones that that tree had. It took several years before it began to bloom, approx 4 years. The thorns are said to store water, so as the root system grows the tree relies less on the thorns for water storage. The wood is soft and easy to prune. After seeing the roots on the trees in the park, I would not plant these trees near any structures as they will eventually cause problems with their extensive roots. These trees are planted through out Southern California, even tho they originate from
    Argentina and Brazil.

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  13. First, the leaves. In the fall come the beautiful purple flowers. Each flower lives for one day, then dies and drops. The last flower falls after all the leaves are gone. A fresh pod looks like a cherimoya inside when it's green.

    Give your tree plenty of room, because these are big trees with huge, damaging roots. We took all ours out because they damaged the foundation, the roof, the building, and the driveway.

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  14. I live near the border of San Diego in Wildomar. I am in zone 10. My tree is in it's second year, and I am very saddened that I did not take proper precautions to prevent frost damage. Everything I placed over the tree blew off or did not provide enough protection. The main stem is burned, and it self cleaned two burned branches. (Pretty cool) It came with spider mites, and I've had to baby it. Still no flowers. My mother has a 30 footer in Ventura, California, and hasn't paid it a dime of attention. Mine is the exact opposite, with bugs eating the leaves and frost killing what leaves made it past the bugs. I want this tree too make it! Pray for Sid!! Yes, it has a name, too.

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  15. Thank you for identifying this beautiful tree! I have seen a huge one--higher than 2nd or 3rd floor of building--in parking lot in Solana Beach, CA. It is amazing! Have seen no flowers yet; however, its stature, character, thorns and immense cotton balls tell their own story. You have solved a mystery. Gratitude and many smiles.

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  16. We planted one of these trees about 2 years ago. It shot up fast in the first 6 months but has not budged since. Now, August, all the leaves are gone. Should I worry? It has never had a flower. What should I feed, when should I feed? Does is like water at any certain time of the year, should I let it dry out? It's in a bed of mulch and we live in SW Florida. Thank you, any help would be great.

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  17. To the poster above...How large is your tree? How is it doing now? Should have leaves. Is it in full sun or shade? Where are you in SW FL? Im in Clearwater and I have a large one in bloom right now and it still has leaves, I sell them if you want another one. I fed mine one year only the large jobes tree spikes and havent done it since.

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    1. I've admired one of these trees in Sarasota (I'm in Brandon FL) for years, and want one of my own. How do I get in touch with you?
      Allen
      abuhl@tampabay.rr.com

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  18. I live in Riverside Ca on the wood streets. There are hundreds of different types of trees in our historical neighborhood. I have a 4-5 story tall silk tree in my backyard. THe thorns are the biggest I have seen yet. The flowers are so beautiful. It has damaged the backyard paving but it is far away enough from the house. Can anyone give me suggestions on how to collect seeds form this tree, my friends are asking.

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  19. If the flowers were pollinated, then there should be seed pods on it from late fall until spring. They are about 6 inches long, oval in shape.

    I live in Florida and have a 30-40' Floss silk tree in my yard, produces white flowers with tinges of pink in the middle from October until November. I've recently been approached by people who want to buy it, not sure exactly how much to ask since it is so unusual.

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  20. I had one of these trees in Burbank, CA. It grew rapidly and didn't flower for 4 years.......the root system was beginning to be a problem. I sold the house and the new owner took it out. I live in Central Mexico and bought a few for my property. I have 2 about 30 ft. from my really nice stables. I am concerned about the root systems damaging that building. Can anyone tell me how far reaching the root system can get? The trees are still young enough that I can move them to a safer area. Anyone have experiences of root system damage that will give me an idea of where this tree can be safely planted?

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  21. we have one in santa barbara, ca and it has never flowered in about 15 years. why not?

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  22. hi everyone,
    i have one of these trees that i planted about 8 years ago. i live in banning, ca where the winds can be bad and summers can get to 110 and some winters we get snow. banning is a little north, i think, from palm springs, ca. anyway i found that these trees do like water but can do without for a little while. but if you want flowers then you need to give it plenty of water. my tree doesnt get those puffy cotton balls, and my tree does not have thorns. but i would like to know how tall these trees get. thanx, toni

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  23. I live in Miami Beach Florida, I have a ceiba speciosa about 25 feet tall, after I had it trimmed, there is a red brown jelly like substance, dropping off it in large masses, does anybody have any suggestions. Thanks

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  25. We live in the DFW area and last January visited So. Cal. We saw this tree for the first time at the San Juan Capistrano Mission. My children were intrigued. The guide did not have any info on the tree. We were so thrilled recently to find this tree again at the Dallas World Aquarium. This time, the name was given. Thanks for the wonderful pictures to share with my children of the life stages of this wildly beautiful tree.

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  26. I saw this tree today in Alice Keck Park in Santa Barbara, CA...I decided to google the image and I found the photo you have here with the pods dangling from the branches that is almost the exact picture I had taken with my smartphone...Your page is very explanatory and informational. It's funny...there are three trees in a row...one with only pods, with huge thorns at the ground to middle of the trunk and on the branches, one with less pods and no thorns, and another with a few white flowers and some thorns mostly on the branches...it's funny how these trees seem to vary from one another yet further studying with the eye they are the same type of tree...just saying...thank you for the information :)

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  27. this is a fabulous blog !!!! I just got back from walking my dog and picked up a little cotton puff--seen this tree many times before,loving all the beautiful flowering and wispy cotton...this is the first time I actually got the answer I was looking for --- great pictures and love love love the info from everyone else on how to make these little charmers grow in our yard.

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  28. I live in East London, South Africa and have one of these trees in my garden. We planted it 35yrs ago! Never knew what it was until I started google searching to identify. Beautiful display of flowers now, early autumn. Creating quite a stir in the neighbourhood. Have never seen the cotton puffs, only seed pods but shall be more diligent from now on and hopefully harvest seeds. Thanks for brilliant blog.

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