Bombax (Chorisia Tree)


Bombax / silk floss tree in Kenya (Chorisia speciosa)

***** Location: Kenya, Brazil, Tropics
***** Season: Short rains (Kenya)
***** Category: Plant


This splendid tree, with its orchid-like pink flowers, lines streets in various parts of Nairobi (photographs below all taken in Outering Estate) and also grows in public parks and gardens (such as Central Park). It is spectacular during its flowering season (April to June), all the more so since the flowers drop perfectly intact and adorn the ground around the base of the tree.

Photo and Text : Isabelle Prondzynski


Chorisia speciosa ("Bombax" or silk-floss tree)
Family : Bombacaceae

Often confused with Bombax which it resembles, this tree comes from Brazil. It can attain a height of over 45 feet (15 m). The branches have a wide span and the swollen, smooth, green trunk is covered with spines. The flowers have five petals and their colour can vary from red to pink. The large fruit provides kapok, fine cotton-like material surrounding the seeds, which is used for stuffing cushions, toys, etc.

John Karmali, The Beautiful Plants of Kenya, Nairobi 1988.

Photo : Isabelle Prondzynski


A spectacular deciduous tree with a swollen, spiny trunk, growing to 25 m with a high, rounded crown; widely planted from the coast to 2,000 m and common around Nairobi, often flowering when the tree is bare of leaves.

Bark : grey and smooth, the spiny bosses disappearing with age; bark greenish on younger branches.
Leaves : compound, digitate, 5 to 7 leaflets radiating from a long stalk; each up to 15 cm long but often smaller; apex tapering, midrib prominent below; margin serrated.
Flowers : large, striking, to 15 cm across, 5 mauve-pink petals, edge crinkly, yellowish-white streaked with pink towards the centre; central thick column of joined stamens, with protruding style and stigma.
Fruit : oval woody capsules, to 15 cm long, smooth pale brown, thickly fibrous, splitting open on the tree. The seeds are embedded in masses of fine white fibres, which are a useful kapok.

Practical notes : fairly fast-growing from seed or large cuttings; widely available from nurseries. Best in good red soil, but will succeed in black cotton soil if the site is well-drained. A show-piece for parks, avenues or golf courses, but needs siting with care because of its extensive root system and the fall of leaves and fluffy fibre.

Tim Noad and Ann Birnie, Trees of Kenya, Nairobi 1989


Photo : Isabelle Prondzynski

Much more information here :

Things found on the way

The baobab is a member of the same family.
Much useful information here :


chorisia avenue --
flowers and school girls
same colours

Photo and Haiku : Isabelle Prondzynski


perhaps a former
evolutionary me
climbed too many trees

Reggie Thomson

Look at this photo of Chorisia isignis right here:


Photo : Isabelle Prondzynski

Related words

. Flamboyant Tree (Swahili : Mjohoro)  

***** Nandi flame tree

Spathodea campanulata, African tulip tree

***** Baobab


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