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Red Silk Cottontree Bombax ceiba

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
BOM-baks SEE-buh
Description

Red Silk Cottontree is a large, flowering, deciduous tree with spines that, at maturity, can reach a height of 70 feet with an almost equal spread. In optimum growing conditions, this species has been known to reach 150 feet tall. In its native environment, it can be found in monsoon forests, river valleys, savannas and up to 4000 feet in the hills of China and Indo-malaysia. Because its native environment can have soil moisture levels that change significantly over time from dry and hot to wet, the tree is very adaptable. It has been widely planted in tropical and sub-tropical areas including southern Florida, where it was introduced in 1912. It has a straight trunks (2 to 5 feet in diameter), large showy red flowers, and smooth white bark. The genus comes from the Greek bombyx meaning silk in reference to the silky hairs in the seed capsule. The epithet comes from a Spanish derivative name referring to a group of large, tropical trees related to Bombax.

Grow in dry to medium moisture well-drained soils in full sun. In southern Florida, it is best grown with moderate but even applications of moisture to the soil.

Red Silk Cottontree drops its leaves just before flowering and flowers appear when the tree is leafless. New leaves appear after almost all of the flowering is completed. Flowers are followed by seed pods which split open to release to the wind large quantities of silky cotton embedded with small brown seeds.

Diseases, Insect Pests, and Other Plant Problems:

No known diseases or insect pests.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#showy flowers#shade tree#drought tolerant#red flowers#orange flowers#low maintenance#winter interest#flowering tree#showy fruits#flowers early spring#dry soils tolerant#flowers late winter#tropical feel#flowers mid-spring
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#showy flowers#shade tree#drought tolerant#red flowers#orange flowers#low maintenance#winter interest#flowering tree#showy fruits#flowers early spring#dry soils tolerant#flowers late winter#tropical feel#flowers mid-spring
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Bombax
    Species:
    ceiba
    Family:
    Malvaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Used as animal food, a medicine and invertebrate food and for fuel.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    India to Southeast Asia and Northern Australia
    Distribution:
    Southern Florida, Hawaii, Central America and Brazil
    Wildlife Value:
    attracts birds and bees.
    Edibility:
    In China, fallen flowers are gathered and used for tea or soup.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 60 ft. 0 in. - 75 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 40 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Ascending
    Broad
    Multi-stemmed
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
    Appendage:
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    10b, 10a, 11b, 11a, 12b, 12a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Pointed fruits, longitudinally ribbed, woody seed capsules to 6 inches long filled with silky hairs.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Winter
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    > 6 inches
    Flower Description:
    Large, showy 5-petaled red to orange-red flowers (each to 6 to 7 inches long) bloom singly or in clusters for about one month from February through April.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Smooth
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Palmate green leaves (to 24 inches long), each leaf having 5 to 7 smooth, leathery, acuminate, lanceolate to elliptic leaflets.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Bumpy
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Horizontal to upright branches in tiered whorls. Cone-shaped spines on the trunk and branches of young trees, but the spines become less prominent as the trees mature.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Dry Soil