T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Ceiba speciosa (Silk Floss Tree)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Ceiba
Species: C. speciosa
Binomial name: Ceiba speciosa
Synonyms: Chorisia speciosa
Common names: Silk Floss Tree, Floss Silk Tree.

Ceiba speciosa is a rounded species of deciduous tree native to the tropical and subtropical forests north-east of Argentina, east of Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil. In Whangarei in northern New Zealand Chorisa speciosa have been planted along Tikipunga's Paramount Drive and Fairway Drive in Kamo.
It has wide-spreading horizontal branches which are green when young and covered with thick conical prickles which serve to store water for dry times. Young trees can have a columnar or upright form and their trunk is green due to its high chlorophyll content, which makes it capable of performing photosynthesis when leaves are absent. When mature its trunk is bottle shaped, generally bulging in its lower third, measuring up to 2 metres in girth. With age it turns to grey. Floss-Silk tree can reach 25 m in height with an equal or greater spread and it grows rapidly the first few years, then more slowly.
The leaves are composed of five to seven long leaflets. 
The five petalled flowers are pink with a creamy white center. They measure 10 to 15 centimetres in diameter cover the tree in small clusters in autumn and winter when the tree is nearly bare. In New Zealand it is thought that monarch butterflies pollinate the flowers because smaller pollinators like bees and bumble bees cannot reach the nectar.
Ceiba speciosa fruits are 20 centimetres long, ovoid, woody capsules, filled with silky, white, kapok-like floss and pea-like seeds. They mature October/ November. When these capsule split open the seeds are spread when wind teases out the floss and carry it away with a seed attached.
In its native areas floss from the seeds was used for stuffing pillows and thin strips of the bark were used to make rope.



Young tree with branches green due to a high chlorophyll content.
  

The tree has developed these prickles to stop clinbing animal accessing their foliage. They also store water.
  

  

The fruit capsule split open releasing the floss and seeds.