Plant DetailShow Menu

Firmiana simplex

Previously known as:

  • Firmiana platanifolia
Phonetic Spelling
fer-mee-AY-nuh SIM-plecks
This plant is an invasive species in North Carolina
Description

Chinese parasol tree is a medium-sized fast growing deciduous tree in the Malvaceae (mallow) family native to Asia.  It is found growing along roadsides and other disturbed areas.   This tree grows quickly and aggressively to 30 feet tall and wide with a dense rounded canopy.  It is noted for its large lobed leaves which can grow 8 to 12 inches across enabling it to cast dense shade like a parasol, hence the common name.  

In late spring or early summer, long panicles of lightly fragrant white to yellow-green flowers occur, followed by unusual showy seed pods.  The flower stalks persist on the tree and can be somewhat unsightly.  Bright yellow fall color appears before the leaves drop revealing more of the structure of the tree and its unusual green bark that matches the color of the stems.  This tree is self-fertile meaning it can reseed itself easily.  

This tree will grow in sun to partial shade and in a variety of soils if they are well-drained.  IIn sandy soils it is a prolific self-seeder.  The branches are susceptible to breakage and need constant pruning to maintain shape.  This tree is drought-tolerant once established.

While it is sometimes used as a specimen or shade tree due to its unusual form and color consider using native trees. It is listed as invasive in several southeastern states.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Trunk scale is a minor problem.  This tree is capable of becoming weedy due to seedlings and is considered invasive in some southern states including SC, GA, MS, and TN.  The fruit and large leaf litter can be messy on hardscape surfaces.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • ‘Variegata’
    Green and white dappled leaves
‘Variegata’
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#invasive#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#weedy#large leaves#high maintenance#aggressive#weak wood#self-seeding#disturbed areas#hairy leaves#green bark#flowers late spring#messy fruits#flowers early summer#fall color yellow#roadside#self-fertile#dense growth#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • ‘Variegata’
    Green and white dappled leaves
‘Variegata’
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#invasive#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#weedy#large leaves#high maintenance#aggressive#weak wood#self-seeding#disturbed areas#hairy leaves#green bark#flowers late spring#messy fruits#flowers early summer#fall color yellow#roadside#self-fertile#dense growth#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Firmiana
    Species:
    simplex
    Family:
    Malvaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The wood is used for the soundboards of several Chinese instruments.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central & S. China to Vietnam, S. Japan to Taiwan
    Dimensions:
    Height: 35 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 15 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Erect
    Oval
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Good Dried
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Leathery dry green to tan capsules 1/2" split into to four petal-like sections to reveal the small, round seeds. The pods are used in decorations.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    Colored Sepals
    Flower Description:
    Up to 12 inch long panicles of white or yellow-green sepals (flowers lack petals) in late spring or early summer. Mildly fragrant and showy.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Palmasect
    Leaf Margin:
    Lobed
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Large 3-5 lobed leaves with palmate veining up to 12 inches across. Upper survace is bright green, undersides are` pubescent.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Green
    Light Gray
    Bark Description:
    Unusual green to gray bark, typically one trunk.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Unusual green and gray stems
  • Landscape:
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Problems:
    Invasive Species
    Messy
    Weak Wood
    Weedy