Firmiana simplex
Common Name: Chinese parasol tree
Type: Tree
Family: Malvaceae
Native Range: Eastern China, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 30.00 to 45.00 feet
Spread: 20.00 to 30.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: Yellowish-green
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Shade Tree, Street Tree, Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Fruit: Showy

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-9 where it is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best in locations protected from strong winds. Best with regular moisture, although established trees develop some drought resistance. Trees will self-seed somewhat aggressively.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Firmiana simplex, commonly called Chinese parasol tree, is a small to medium-sized upright deciduous tree with a rounded crown. It is native to China, Korea, Japan and southeast Asia. It was introduced into the U. S. in the 1850s, and has naturalized over time in the Southeast from Virginia to Florida and Texas as well as in California. It typically grows 30-45’ tall. It is perhaps best noted for its very large, palmately-veined, 3-5 lobed leaves (to 12” across) that are bright green above and pubescent below. Leaves turn an undistinguished yellow in fall. Mildly fragrant, star-shaped, yellowish-green flowers (to 3/4” wide) in long terminal panicles (to 12”) bloom mostly at the twig ends in early summer. Flowers give way to leathery capsules that split open when ripe (autumn) into 4 or 5 sections, each section containing 1 to 3 seeds. Smooth greenish bark on the young branches and trunk is somewhat unusual. Additional common names for this tree are varnish tree (seed pods release a brownish, varnish-like fluid as they open) and phoenix tree (supernatural phoenix bird of Chinese legend perched on Firmiana trees). Synonymous with and formerly called Firmiana platanifolia.

Genus name honors Karl Josef von Firmian (1716-1782), Governor of Lombardy, when that was a province of the Austrian Empire, and a patron of the Padua botanic garden.

Specific epithet is in reference to the simple (as opposed to compound) leaves.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Landscape tree. Near patio. Woodland garden. Shade tree. Street tree (although fruit/leaf litter is messy). Seed pods may be picked for indoor decoration use.