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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Shaving-Brush tree (Pseudobombax ellipticum)

By Staff | Apr 15, 2015

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 form all over, that slowly grow to cigar shaped buds. Guess whatthese 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 stamens that resemble 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 bees, birds and bats 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 night-time flower tours. Our star will give you oohs and aahs as you and the birds wait for the next flower to pop!

Pros:

* Large flowers with lots of blossoms.

* Drought tolerant.

* Attractive when blooming or non-blooming.

* Insect damage minimal.

* Great neighborhood attraction, get extra money selling photos.

* Easy to maintain/prune.

* Can get very wide and tall.

* Brings in the birds.

* Non-invasive.

* Gives you an excuse to throw a party.

Cons:

* Daily clean up leaves/flowers that 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.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!