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WHATS BLOOMIN’ IN PARADISE? a gardeners journey

By Staff | May 13, 2011

Blooms at night

First impression: Oodles of hot pink thread like stamens frosted in yellow pollen. The flowers are curled, like ribbons in a soft tan hue surrounding these silky hairs. This extra large blossom really looks like an old fashioned shaving brush! My eye is drawn to the clusters of blooms all along the branches of this grand oversized tree. The bark is olive smooth and streaked light green and gray. The tree has a structure of uniqueness and climb ability. You can see this indescribable filament display in fabulous bloom at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: This super oversized tree is one of 20 species from the Pseudobombax genus, which can reach a height of 35 feet. It is a non-native from South America and is loved for its grand size and unique luminous flowers. Even from a distance it will draw your eye to it. It is an attractive tree with a canopy that is wider than its height. Light green and super smooth bark, with a trunk that can get bulbous and swollen with maturity. Evergreen until about one month before the flowers its large palmate shaped leaves fall to the ground. Small tan buttons forms all over that slowly grow to cigar shaped buds. Guess what these buds only open at night. Right before the flowers emerge, you can hear a popping noise! Flowers are profuse and noticeable all during the day. The flower petals are the casing pre bloom, soft and camel tan color. The star of the blossom is the drop dead gorgeous shocking hot pink colored stamen that resembles filaments. If you shine a flashlight on them at night, their tips, which begin, crystallized and white, have a luminescence in the darkness. The long stamens are thread-like thin, soft, and wave in the wind. As the day progresses, golden yellow pollen collects at the end of the stamens. Sweet honey liquid collects in the flower. This delicate nectar is how the tree pollinates, by attracting birds including hummingbirds to partake its sweet drink. As the birds drink, their tails dust the pollen from the stamens. As they hop from flower to flower pollen is spread by shaking those tail feathers! Because our tree is so unique, we offer nighttime flower tours. Mrs. Bette Wellman, a local resident is our authority and your guide for the Shaving Brush Tree. She welcomes you to join in her flower party in the month of May, which starts at 7:45 p.m. nightly at the east side of building 15. Bring your flashlights, chair and curiosity. Our star will give you ooh’s and aah’s as Bette guides you towards the next flower to pop!

Pros: Large flowers with lots of blossoms- Drought tolerant – Attractive when blooming or non blooming-Insect damage minimal – Great family photo tree with low large branches – Easy to maintain/prune – salt tolerant- Can get very wide and tall – Brings in the birds – Gives you an excuse to throw a party.

Cons: Daily clean up leaves/flowers which are messy and large – Non Native status – Watch out for night gathering of shaving brush groupies – Brings in the birds.

Conclusion: Listen for the pop then search with your flashlight for wow it looks like its glowing pink flower. Stunning at night, but just as mesmerizing during the day, come see this one of a kind blossom in our tropical garden location.

Looking up

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!

Looks like a Shaving Brush Tree

Smooth streak bark

Bette Wellman stands under the tree