I love when adaptation results in unexpected beauty. Let me set the scene for you…it’s a fashion shoot for mother nature and today, on set, she’s pulling out all the stops. In this case, the beauty she’s giving us is so hot that it explodes with an exquisite ivory elegance! Let me introduce you to Pseudobombax ellipticum ‘Album’ commonly known as the Shaving-Brush Tree. This tree comes to us from Mexico and Guatemala. On a recent visit to the California Cactus Center in Pasadena I was able to witness this deciduous semi-tropical tree live and in concert. They have a 40 plus year old specimen Pseudobombax ellipticum ‘Album’ in the ground at their front entrance that, in bloom, will make you fall to your knees in worship. In winter, this tree’s bare branches are not much to look at, but in late winter/early spring large, velvety, cigar-like buds emerge.
Then under the cover of darkness, in the stillness of the night, mature buds burst open revealing 5-6 inch long stamens. After daybreak, the stamens relax into a willowy, brush-like form, while bud sepals curl like white chocolate shavings on a luscious layer cake providing access to a floral calyx cup filled with rich nectar that both the birds and bees love.
Once the flowers of Pseudobombax ellipticum ‘Album’ begin to fade, plush, palmate elliptical leaves emerge for the rest of the growing season. Younger stem and trunk growth exhibits some strikingly cool green, gray, and chocolate streaked coloration. Pseudobombax ellipticum ‘Album’ can be grown in the ground resulting in a tree that reaches a height around 35 feet tall and wider in maturity.
This tree also makes for a super surreal bonsai specimen plant. In a bonsai form its trunk is trained to exhibit more of its unique caudex form. The look of a trained caudex can resemble that of a tortoise shell or an alien rock melon and is highly prized by plant collectors.
Pseudobombax ellipticum ‘Album’ likes full sun, well-draining, rocky soil, regular water, and is hardy down to around 25 degrees fahrenheit/-3 degrees celsius. It makes an outstanding garden plant as well as a super cool indoor specimen.