Ceiba insignis

Alexis authored today’s entry:

Van Swearingen (Van in LA@Flickr) took these pictures at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and shared them in the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool (photo 1 | photo 2 | photo 3). Thanks, Van!

Ceiba insignis, sometimes still called by the synonym Chorisia insignis, is a deciduous tree native to the dry forests of western South America. Commonly, it is known as the white floss-silk tree, chorry, or white dragon. Oftentimes, the tree fattens significantly towards the base, a fact that likely caused the species to garner the nickname South American bottle tree. The sharp prickles seen on the trunk can become over an inch wide as the tree grows and its trunk widens. When young, the bark is green but as the tree ages it turns grey. When fruits (from Trees of Miami) reach maturity, they split open to reveal seeds that are surrounded by silky white hairs. These have been used as a stuffing for pillows and life vests.

This species is quite similar to Ceiba speciosa, and they may be difficult to differentiate when not in flower. Usually, Ceiba insignis has white flowers with golden throats and Ceiba speciosa‘s flowers are pink with white throats. However, variation does occur and sometimes Ceiba speciosa may produce paler flowers or Ceiba insignis may have slightly pink flowers (ref: Krishen’s Trees of Delhi (2006)).

Ceiba insignis
Ceiba insignis
Ceiba insignis

13 responses to “Ceiba insignis”

  1. Jane Levy Campbell

    I love seeing both the whole and the parts in the entry photos.

  2. Anne Llewellyn

    This tree is in the same genus as the Kapok tree.
    Does C. insignis produce as much “kapok” as C. pentandra?

  3. Van

    The Arboretum has quite a few named varieties. They are known for C. speciosa ‘September Splendour’ among others.
    At the Arboretum, C. insignis matures to about 3/4 the height of C. speciosa which makes for a more approachable specimen.
    I’ll have to keep an eye out for C. pentandra there.

  4. HelenMcCall

    Wonderful pictures! But, did anybody else think the
    thorns in the second picture looked like chocolate
    chips lining up for a bakery project? And, the flowers
    looked like lillies!

  5. phillip

    …Helen..yes i see the chips but thought of a village with streets and sidewalks at the entrance to the center of the earth…this is my…anthropomorphism..

  6. wendy

    I totally agree with Helen – on both counts. But Phillip’s imagery was fantasy-expanding, as so often is the case with anthropomorphism! A truly magnificent tree. Thanks!

  7. Anne

    On my iPhone screen, the second photo looked like some sort of hydra or perhaps a medieval village sinking into a black hole.
    Do the flowers have a fragrance?

  8. Dr R K S Rathore

    We have been studying Ceiba & Chorisia under the family Bombacaceae and here it is included in Malvaceae. Is it a new classification ? If so please send me the reference.

  9. Alexis Kho

    As far as I can tell, genera formerly classified under Bombacaceae have now been placed in Malvaceae and given subfamily specifications.
    Ceiba is listed under Malvaceae subfamily Bombacoideae.

  10. elizabeth a airhart

    this is wonderful old tree the blooms are so pretty
    i remember growing up we had kapok stuffed pillows
    tree of miami is a good site i live zone nine on the west coast
    we have similar trees and plants over here
    the second picture looks like a place out of a rackman drawing
    thank ye daniel and company you tube has a wedding that was
    held at ubc

  11. HelenV

    I was surprised to see this photo today. 20 yrs ago, a neighbor in Harlingen, TX had a tree like this in their yard but didn’t know what it was. I had never seen one before or since. Great photo and write up! Thanks!

  12. hong

    At my first glance, I did not understand the second picture, then I knew they are thorns when I read other comment. The second photo looks just like a painting.

  13. Sue

    Thankyou, another learning experience, you are all just
    amazing. I do not have to travel to see all these beautiful
    live plants you bring them to me, I am so lucky and feel
    very priveledged.

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