A few days ago I was thumbing through my news feed on Facebook and scrolled down to a friend’s picture of a gorgeous silk floss tree in full bloom, with the title “Fall in Miami!” Right now I’m in the mountains of Western North Carolina, enjoying a traditional and beautiful fall, but her photo made me stop and ponder on the beauty of our own unique fall season in South Florida!
The silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa) is a deciduous tree native to tropical and subtropical South America, and is related to the baobab and kapok trees. Its name derives from the silk or cottony-like fibers which surround the seeds inside its fruit pods. You could use this fluffy stuff instead of bubble-wrap, and press the seeds to make vegetable oil. However, mostly the silk floss tree is prized as an ornamental tree—both for its stunning flowers (which are pollinated by monarch butterflies) and for the large, crazy thorns that grow on its strangely bulbous trunk. It is a fast grower when water is plentiful and can reach a height of over 80 feet—so give it some room if you are hankering for one of these beauties in your garden!
–Betsy Tilghman, Nomenclature Chair