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Plant of the Week

November 21, 1987|ROBERT SMAUS

Chorisia speciosa Floss Silk Tree

Flowering tree to 60 feet

Without a doubt, the most spectacular tree we can grow in Southern California is the floss silk tree that has been blooming over the last few months. This South American tree is instantly recognizable even out of bloom because it is the one with the wicked spines all over the trunk (though they are not as wicked as they look--children know that they can be broken off and be put to a variety of interesting uses, such as witches' fingernails).

Beginning in September and lasting well into this time of the year, the floss silk tree flowers like few other trees. Huge pink flowers with orchid-like mottlings cover the tops of the trees and can be seen blocks away, because this is a big tree, growing easily to 60 feet. Often, the only chance to see the flowers is when they fall from their lofty perches.

Chorisias are still relatively new to Southern California and are not easy to find at nurseries, but the Los Angeles Arboretum has introduced a number of grafted varieties that flower at different times in the fall, including an early one named September Splendor and the pretty Lasca Beauty. Some of these grafted varieties are also thornless, including Majestic Beauty, probably the most commonly available.

Fast Growers

Grafted trees should bloom right away, while seedlings may take as long as 10 years, but sometimes trees are so busy growing that flowering still takes several years. Chorisias are fast growers, becoming a respectable tree in just a few years. While young, the trunks are a bright green.

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