Firmiana simplex - Chinese Parasol Tree
Family - Sterculiaceae
Size - Upright, spreading tree of 30 to 40 feet in height with a spread of about 1/2 the height. Medium rate of growth, about 15 to 20 feet over a 10 year period.
Foliage - Very large, 10 to as much as 24 inches across, giving the tree a tropical appearance. It is doubtful you'll press these leaves in the pages of a book. They are medium green in color with light colored leaf veins. Fall color is a dingy yellow, not really significant.
Flower/Fruit/Seed - Flowers are tan-yellow in color, they are panicles on the terminal ends of the branches. Flowering occurs from mid June to early July. Fruit are pea sized, attached to leafy carpels that split open after flowering.
Bark - Green, highlighted with brown leaf and branch scars, smooth and is noticable all year.
Pests and Diseases - None noticed.
Landscape Use - Can be quite clubby looking and unrefined in the winter landscape due to few, small, lateral and secondary branches. Have seen it used in a office park setting and the foliage can be a litter problem in the Fall due to it's size. Has potential uses but doesn't exactly fit the "tree look" that everyone supposes. Bark color and foliage size limit it's possibilities
Performance - 8 Performs well in the Southeastern U.S. climate. Might be more cold hardy than is suspected. Has been rated north to zone 7, but I've seen it go through winters below 0, and it survived unscathed the March blizzard of 93 when temperatures dropped to single digits, 40 mile per hour winds, and 8 inches of snow. This occured after a lengthy warm period when a number of trees were in bud swell, and were damaged severely because of it. I would rate it to zone 6 in hardiness. Seems to be able to naturalize itself fairly easily if given the chance. I have noticed Cinese Parasol Trees "popping up" in unsuspected places such as roadsides and woods over the last couple of years.