Chorisia speciosa (Ceiba speciosa). FLOSS-SILK TREE. Brazil
BOMBACACEAE (Bombax family)
There is one in the outer southwest island in the Inner Quad that is visited by hummingbirds; one on the south side of the Post Office, with a hole through its trunk, that bears fruit; and one near the Clock Tower (with seven trunks!). Another specimen is on Galvez Mall east of Green Library. But the most striking site is Parking Structure 1 on Campus Drive West and Roth Way, where two rows of seven each are rooted in the dim interior. The trees evidently think they are in their ancestral jungle and have performed quite differently from the isolated specimens that grow in full sunlight elsewhere on campus. They had pushed upward to the full height of the structure by 2002 and fruited more than once.
The fruit have the general appearance of large green-colored avocados, but can be even larger, reaching 8 inches in length and weighing up to 1¾ pounds. When unripe, they have the texture of a juicy cucumber, with a seed-bearing core. On ripening, pods open to expose masses of white cottony or kapok-like material that ultimately fall to the floor far below and perhaps act as a barrier to rodents seeking the tiny seeds. Commercial kapok, exported mainly from Java, for innumerable uses, comes from Asian members of the bombax family (such as Ceiba pentandra).
The tree was named for Ludwig Choris (1795–1828), who sailed around the world as an artist with Otto von Kotzebue (1787–1846); Choris is of local interest for having left paintings (held by the Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley) of Native Americans, made in 1816 at the Carmel and San Francisco missions (portraits, dance groups, war dance costumes). See The Tall Tree, Palo Alto Historical Association, Vol. 3, No. 2, October 1969.
Illustrations (links open new windows): galleryAdditions/Revisions:
Name derivation, genus | species Ludwig Choris (1795-1828) | beautifulRelated material: Steve Brigham, "Floss-Silk Trees," Pacific Horticulture 64, 4 (2004):39-42.