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The Silk Floss tree (Chorisia Speciosa) is a deciduous tree and a member of the Bombacaceae, or cotton-tree family. It’s a fast growing tree that can range in height from 35 to 60 feet. It is hardy in climate zones 10b to 11. 
Native of tropical climates of Brazil and Argentina, southern Mexico and has been known to do well in southern California and Florida. It is known for its pink and purple flowers, large seedpods with a silky, cottony substance (Kapok) within, and large thorns that grow from the greenish bark of the trunk. The thorns are cone shaped and silvery and seem to have no current biological significance. 

At full maturity the base trunk of the tree will become bloated with water – giving it a “bottle tree” look. The base fills with water storing cells causing the stretched bark to form green furrows along the gray bark. This vertical striping effect becomes more apparent in the winter when the tree loses its leaves, revealing the furrows and the avocado sized fruit.

The flowers appear in late summer and early fall and are compared to orchids or lilies. They have five distinct petals and may be up to six inches across. They range in color from pink, purple, ivory, burgundy, or white.

The fruit is a capsule, consistent with most trees in this family. It will be pear shaped and will grow up to six inches in length. When mature, the pods release the Kapok containing the seeds to be dispersed.

The floss, or Kapok, extracted from the pods is a cotton-like substance with smooth fibers – too smooth for textile thread – that is used to stuff life preservers, saddles, cushions and mattresses. The primary use is for life preservers as the floss can support 30 times its own weight in water.

For more information regarding these trees:

  • http://www.fiu.edu/~atodis01/resslk.html
  • http://www.gardenfla.com/databasepages/chorisia.htm
  • http://www.phoenixzoo.org/Pages/plants/silk_floss.html
  • http://www.tfts.org/chorisia.htm
  • http://mgonline.com/chorisia.html
Also, thanks to David Lofgren and Frank McDonough from the Arboretum of Los Angeles County for their assistance in helping me identify and learn about these trees.

Also, the inspiration for this node came from the fact that I managed to get two Silk Floss Seeds to sprout yesterday.

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