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Origin and Habitat: It is native of Southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El salvador and Nicaragua, and has been introduced in Carriebean (Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Grenada), Hawaian islands, Florida and elsewhere in tropical countries
Altitude: From sea level to 1800 m
Habit: Grows in dry and rocky habitats or poor soils and is shade intolerant.
Pseudobombax ellipticum (Kunth) Dugand
Caldasia no. 6: 67. 1943
- Pseudobombax ellipticum (Kunth) Dugand
- Bombax ellipticum Kunth
- Pseudobombax fastuosum (Moc. & Sessé)
- Pseudobombax mexicanum (Hemsl.)
Pseudobombax ellipticum var. tenuiflorum A.Robyns
Bull. Jard. Bot. État Bruxelles no. 6: 67. 1943
ENGLISH: Shaving Brush Tree, Shaving Brush
SPANISH (Español): Sefioritas, Doncellas, Arbol de Doncellas
Description: It is a fabulously attractive fast-growing deciduous tree with a smooth green caudiciform trunk that can reach 18(-20) m in height. Coveted for it's unique brush-like flowers in late winter, the leaves are an attraction as well. This is a fine shade tree as well as a show stopper bloomer suitable for bonsai treatment as well.
Trunk: Smooth, green, semi-succulent up to 1.3 m in diameter often bulging and specialized for water storage. Its branches are close to the base of the stem and the Twigs are bright green..
Leaves: Long-stalked, alternate, palmately compound and articulated, with five oval leaflets 10-22 cm long. New leaves are a quite attractive deep maroon colour and turn a fine green as they get older.
Flowers: Single or aggregate inflorescences (short cymes), 15-20 cm across, clustered at ends of branches before leaves; petals long and liner, white to purple that separate and curl back to frame a cluster with hundreds of bright silky pink-purple stamens topped with yellow pollen. The stamens are shorter than the petals in 2 concentric rings with only the bases fused (like a comb). The stamens are loosely clustered in 5 groups in each ring and. There is also a white flowered form (forma alba).
Blooming season: Winter to early spring. (December-March). The flowers open at night and fall off some time in the day and only last for the one day.
Fruit: Elongated, dehiscent capsules 15-25 cm long, containing numerous seeds. The fruit contain a fluffy fiber around the seeds.
Seeds: The seeds are wind dispersed.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Pseudobombax ellipticum group
- Pseudobombax ellipticum (Kunth) Dugand: (var. ellipticum) Deciduous tree with a smooth green caudiciform trunk with showy purple brush-like flowers in late winter. Petals, widespread, 9-16 cm long by 1-2 cm wide.
- Pseudobombax ellipticum var. tenuiflorum A.Robyns: has smaller petals, about 6,6-8 cm long by 0,9-1,3 cm wide. Distibution: Endemic to the Mexican state of Veracruz.
- Pseudobombax ellipticum cv. alba hort.: White flowering form.
Cultivation and Propagation: This magnificent flowering tree is an excellent growers and extremely easy to take care. If planted in a tropical area with good soil and given plenty of water it can get really big but it can also make a great houseplants. If kept potted and trimmed the tree can be kept around 1 m in height.
A caudex will form (fat base) sometimes resembling a turtle shell. Psedobombax are grown in full to partial sun.
Watering: It like plenty of water. Never let it dry out completely or you'll have a dead plant. Then again, don't over water either or you'll have a rotten one. It is a deciduous tree and will loose its leaves in the winter. It should be kept a little dry at this time. In the spring, summer and early autumn you should increase the water.
Hardiness: It is a tender tropical specie that should survive minimum temperatures down to -7° C for short periods of time (especially if dry) but it is best to protect it when the temperatures fall bellow 0° C. If you live in frost prone areas than you have to grow it in pots. Its very sensitive to hot summer sun while kept as a potted plant.
Pruning: After the flowers are gone, the leaves will sprout and if it is needed you can trim the tree. This plant like to grow as a tree and don't need any pruning, but you may cut every year the branches so the trunk base (caudex) would get larger.
Propagation: It is propagated by seeds and cuttings. Seeds are capable of germinating under partial shade but will eventually die without direct sunlight. The cuttings, 40 -100 cm in length and 2-5 cm in diameter, are easily rooted when planted in bags of sand and watered daily or when planted directly in the field.
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