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What is a Silk Tree?

Harriette Halepis
Harriette Halepis

A silk tree, technically called an Albizia tree, is a subtropical tree that is grown throughout the Americas and in Africa. Albizia trees are usually found next to streams, rivers, and swamps. Due to the strength of the tree, these trees are frequently used to make canoes, wooden tool handles, and are used as lumber for various construction projects.

Typically, a silk tree will bloom during the late summer to early fall months. The pods that grow on this type of tree are dark in color, though they reveal lightly colored flowers that do not have any petals. These flowers are sheer and interesting to look at, which is why Albizia trees are often used for decorative purposes. In some parts of the United States, silk trees are considered invasive, since many people have planted an abundance of these trees for decades. As a result of excessive planting, these trees have multiplied in many states.

Honeybees are attracted to the highly sweet scent of silk tree flowers.
Honeybees are attracted to the highly sweet scent of silk tree flowers.

Usually, the flowers of a silk tree are white, though many types of these flowers have colored tips. Red-tipped silk trees are highly sought after, and are prized throughout Japan. Honeybees enjoy the scent of silk tree flowers, which can be extremely sweet.

Even though silk trees can be found throughout the United States, as well as many other parts of the world, trees that grow within the eastern portion of the United States are susceptible to disease. Certain fungi grow on silk trees, making the lifespan of an average silk tree very short. Silk trees can be purchased by contacting greenhouse growers who specialize in unique types of trees.

As compared to other trees, growing a silk tree is considered relatively easy. As with any other type of plant or tree, an Albizia tree needs a good deal of water and sunshine in order to thrive. It is also important to attempt to keep fungi away from these trees by treating trees with special fungicides. Making sure to keep fungus away from a silk tree is the best way to prevent early death. Since Albizia trees are not sensitive to frost and snow, these trees can grow in almost any part of the world. It is important to plant an Albizia tree in a partially shady area, however. An overabundance of sunshine may cause this type of tree to die prematurely.

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    • Honeybees are attracted to the highly sweet scent of silk tree flowers.
      By: Dmytro Smaglov
      Honeybees are attracted to the highly sweet scent of silk tree flowers.