Chinese Parasol Tree - Firmiana simplex

On a recent visit to the Madrid zoo a came across an interesting tree species that I had never seen before. It is called the Chinese Parasol tree and is located right in front of the Baboon exhibit which makes it practically invisible to most visitors as the Baboons have a knack for keeping everyone´s fixed on their rowdy behavior.

So while everyone else was watching the Baboons I was observing the tree that everyone had their back to. I would have guessed that this tree species was related to the Brachychitons if it were not for the sign at the base of the tree that gave away its true identity (see image below). The leaves, seed pods, and tree shape seem very similar to the Kurajongs to me. As it turns out they are both in the same plant family Sterculiaceae.

The leaves of the Chinese Parasol tree (Firmania simplex) are large (30cm) and the ones I saw had three lobes. The cluster of seed pods looked very similar to the Brachychitons. The green bark looked very similar to that of the Lacebark Kurrajong.

From the graphic on the sign below it seems that the opened seed pods are quite different from those of the Kurrajongs. I´ll have to check back on this tree in the weeks ahead to see how the fruit forms.

9 comments:

  1. This is very interesting tree. I have never seen such one. Thanks for sharing,
    Ewa

    ReplyDelete
  2. I came via another nature blog as I am very interested in trees. I live in western New York State (US). In 2006, we had a freak ice storm in October that came when the trees still had leaves. We were known as the "City of Trees" in Buffalo NY, but we lost or had damage to over 30,000 trees. It was heart breaking, but at least people started paying attention and appreciate what we do have. Thank you for all this interesting info. PS. I am known as the neighborhood "tree hugger".

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the comment rabling woods "tree hugger"!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Interesting article.
    I discovered this tree recently, I saw big specimens in the city of Lleida, in Catalunya. (a country within spain).
    And the climate in this inland city is continental and cold in winter, so it should survive quite a few degrees below 0ºC. Maybe -8 or more as Lleida has been known to reached a temperature of -12ºC!
    I would like to try and plant one in my garden, but I´ll put it in a sheltered spot as some rare winters go down to -15ºC!
    Anyone experienced this tree in cold temperatures?
    Adam.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My name is Surhguh Park, a Korean, a plant enthusiast.
    I know this tree very well. I have a couple of big ones around my old home in my home village. Chinese people call this tree 'The King of all Trees' as they name the tree peony folwer ' The King of all Flowers'. They believed that the Phoenix eats bamboo seeds only and nests on this tree only. Therefore, you should plant this tree and bamboo if you want to invite a Phoenix to your place.
    The seed pods grow like the bean pods until the seeds inside grow to their sizes and then open wide. Tree to four seeds in one pod. But it takes some more while for the seeds to ripe. In this stage, the seed pods are green with purple hue and the seeds are also green and the surface of the seeds is smooth and shiny. When the seeds are fully ripe, the pods get dry into light brown and the surface of the seeds become full of wrinkles. The color of the seeds also turn into brown. The seeds are full of oil. Chinese people use the oil as medicine or cooking oil. On windy autumn days, the seed pods fly away with the seeds attached to the pods. The pods fly like maple seeds do making beautiful spins.
    This tree is hardy to -15ºC. The temperature in my home town in Korea sometimes goes down below -15ºC but my trees are still alive. In southern Korea, we plant this tree as street trees.
    Propagation is easy by seeds. Germination rate is almost 100%. Very easy to grow. If anyone wants some seeds, I will collect some this fall and will send them via airmail. This is a great tree.
    As a matter of fact, I was quite surprized to see the similarities of Brachychiton acerifolius when I first saw it in Brisbane, Austrailia. The only noticeable difference was the leaf size which was smaller than Chinese Parasol tree. Of course it was not with flowers hence I couldn't identify that it was a different tree.

    I tried to get some seeds of Brachychiton species, all five of them that was covered in this blog. Is there anybody who can help me to get them? Because of the climate difference, if I grow them in Seoul, I think I have to move them inside for wintering. Can they be grown in pots until they flower?

    My e-mail address is: sgpark@columbianchemicals.com

    Thanks a lot.
    Surhguh

    ReplyDelete
  6. It is lovely to know about China's Parasol tree.I learned many good things from your page and explanation.
    Thank you
    David
    davidaghosh@vsnl.net

    ReplyDelete
  7. This tree was growing in the yard of a home I purchased about 2 years ago. It is only about 7 feet tall and I am wondering when it begins to bloom.I am the Hill Country of Texas just outside San Antonio. I have noticed that the leaves go limp when the day heats up, then they rise up again from late evening until it gets hot again the next day.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Sadly, Firmiana simplex, the Chinese Parasol Tree is considered an aggressive invasive species (noxious weed) in large parts of the united states because it grows so incredibly rapidly and proliferates so easily that it out-competes native species for sun. As attractive as shade is during this baking drought, you may want to consider removing it from your Hill Country yard.

    ReplyDelete
  9. There are several of them around Athens, GA. I had 2 in my yard, but had one cut because of how close it was to the house and I was concerned it was like a poplar and would be weak long term. It is incredible invasive and I spend at least 1 day every year just killing all the sprouting trees in the yard.

    ReplyDelete