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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ceiba speciosa - Silk Tree

The silk tree is quite rare in Santa Cruz County. It's a medium to large semi-deciduous tree growing to 30-60' with a spread of about the same. Variable in form, some specimens are very broad while others tend to be more upright. Many examples I've seen south of SC are much wider than the images I have. Trees are unique with a large swollen trunk with prickles, large primary lateral branches upright but also can be going off in odd directions, (one of its common names is palo borracho = drunken stick). Beautiful in bloom. Formerly known as Chorisia speciosa.

Alternately arranged, palmately compound leaves, 6-12" diameter with 5-7 lanceolate to elliptic to oblanceolate leaflets each 3-5" long with slightly serrated margins. Petiole as long or longer than the leaf blade area.

Stems are covered with prickles, not spins, not thorns, but prickles. Usually dense when young, but as the trunk expands they tend not to produce more of them. I fell in love with this tree while attending Cal Poly. It was being grown by the department and I bought one and had it for years, actually leaving it in Petaluma with my in-laws while we went to Pullman for grad school, and it stayed there till they moved.

Flowers are pink with a light yellow or white throat, 5 thin petals, sort of lacy usually borne without leaves.

Fruit are oval to rounded pods 6-8" long opening up to reveal black seeds covered by cotton like hairs. Blooming in fall.

Green bark and stems, becoming gray with age.

Hardly, with the stems covered with prickles. 

Santa Cruz
City Hall has two of them.

4815 Crystal Ave is a small one.

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