Saturday, November 22, 2014

Think pink!

I admit it, I've goofed, had another senior moment and got confused. Over the last few years as I've been getting to know the trees here in California, I have totally muddled two different trees, the orchid tree and the silk floss tree. I hardly dare admit my ignorance! Admittedly both are pink but close examination shows totally different flowers and foliage. Sadly both are often butchered by tree trimmers, so it is tricky to get a real feel for the natural shape of either tree - my only defense!. 

Bauhinia in Palm Springs street in springtime

Anyway - I first became aware of the orchid tree - Bauhinia and I have written about this before, (Name Dropping - Feb 2012)  finding its link to the botanist Linnaeus and his predecessors, the  Bauhin brothers fascinating. Here in Palm Springs, Bauhinia flower in the spring and are as common as flowering cherries back in the UK.  There are over 200 species occurring naturally in many areas of the tropics. They are actually legumes, so amazingly related to peas and beans.  the commonly grown one is probably Bauhinea x blakeana, the Hong Kong Orchid tree, although it could be B. variegata which confusingly is now called Phanera variegata - maybe I can be forgiven for my muddle! Then over the years I have observed similar trees flowering in the autumn and without stopping for close examination, assumed they were another species of Bauhinia.

Ceiba (syn Chorisia) speciosa flowering now in Palm Springs
This year I have been more observant and realise that they are silk floss trees, Chorisia or more correctly species of Ceiba. I first became aware of this tree in its winter form up near Los Angeles last year,  where I saw them bearing huge seed pods bursting open to reveal a fluffy white interior and dark seeds.  Then this summer, Jim sent me pictures of a tree in Italy which I identified as Chorisia.  I then observed them flowering down in Florida a few weeks ago. Returning to Palm Springs I realised we had the same trees flowering here and they were not Bauhinia! At last I have them clearly in my mind!

Searching my pictures, I find I do have a few other species of both genera, so here they are to add to your knowledge or my confusion!

Chorisia insignis photographed in the Huntington Gardens

The curious bottle-shaped trunk of Chorisia insignis

Bauhinia galpinii - seen in Florida
Bauhinia variegata Alba

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