Chinese Parasol Tree is Firmiana simplex

Botany dot com says that the Chinese Parasol Tree is native to Africa and Asia but it's tendency to become invasive in the southern U.S. is more typical of plants from Asia.
The Parasol Tree's other names include Phoenix Tree, Bottle Tree and Varnish Tree. The seed pods are valued by crafters.

Ours came from tiny (2-inch tall) seedlings that were given to me when I wrote about a glorious garden in Tulsa. That gardener's were a stand of 15-feet trees with garden furniture placed underneath. Glorious!

Here's my blog entry about Tina Logan's garden - she is the incredible gardener who gave us our baby trees in 2010.

They are pest free even in our wildscape. Hardy only in zones 7 to 9 though gardeners on Dave's Garden grow in in zones up to 11.

The beautiful bark is complimented with the pink petioles or leaf stems. The flowers have a lovely scent and they are followed by long seedpods. When the pods open they have a brown fluid that resembles varnish, hence that common name.

The flowers are celebrated in a blog post by the Scott Arboretum.

Tina Logan's stand of  Parasol Trees
And, they quote Hillier, "The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs notes that Firmiana is “a noble foliage tree of medium size for the mildest climates.” The large, rich green maple-like leaves are the main appeal; however, Firmiana is not simply a one hit wonder. Creamy flowers are produced terminally in June and July on 10 – 20” panicles! The fruits and subsequent seeds are most intriguing. While fruits may vary in form, many are star shaped. As the seeds mature, the pods inflate and then open allowing the single seed to dangle within the cluster. Other attributes include yellow fall color, noticeable lenticels along the bark, and few if any pest problems. Firmiana can be grown as a single stem specimen or as a multi-stemmed cutback shrub. The Morris Arboretum uses the plant as a cutback shrub in the Rose Garden to great effect. While a noted invasive in southern states (Texas), this 30-45’ tree bears further consideration in Mid-Atlantic gardens. However, Charles Cresson noted some “seeding around” in his Swarthmore garden."

There is a photo of another stand of them at

Forest Farm offers the plants for $12.95 plus shipping for the tube size at


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