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CECROPIA palmata

Image of Cecropia palmata

James Burghardt

Family

Cecropiaceae

Botanical Name

CECROPIA palmata

Plant Common Name

Snakewood Tree

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

Beautifully exotic, hand-like leaves catches the eye of most plant lovers when seeing the trumpet tree. An upright, rarely-branching, fast growing, broadleaf evergreen tree, it's native to the West Indies and northern South America. Known as a pioneer tree, it quickly germinates and forests cleared areas and vegetates waste areas alongside roads or abandoned lots. Its trunk is upright but readily curves (like a snake) to seek out the most light, holding an open canopy of leaves.

The leaves of this Cecropia are among the easiest to distinguish, as they large, rounded and with very deeply penetrating seven to eleven lobes. Leaf undersides are woolly white. The tree's trunk is smooth, grayish white and hollow, often infested with ants that protect the plant from hungry leaf-eating critters. Flowering anytime the weather is warm and moisture ample, long banana-like buds that are ivory-green protrude from the stems just below the leaves. The light golden flowers are held in a mophead of pendent catkins (finger-like clusters). Trees are dioecious, either being fully male or female in floral gender. The flesh around the seeds in each female catkin tastes of banana and sweet custard, relished by bats and birds that end up spreading the seeds across the rainforest.

Grow trumpet tree in full to partial sun in any variety of soils, from well-draining to somewhat wet, in a frost-free location. Loving heat and humidity, it can grow upwards of 7 feet (3 m) each year. Protect this plant from damaging tropical storm winds. It's foliage is a reason to include this tree in the tropical garden, as well as trying the sweet fruits. Use the fresh or dried fallen leaves as floral ornamentation.

This tree may be regarded as undesirable or invasive in tropical areas outside of Central America. Its fast growth can make it relatively short-lived in comparison to other hardwood tropical trees.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 9

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    40'-50' / 12.2m - 15.2m

  • Width

    10'-20' / 3.0m - 6.1m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Caribbean, South America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Light Yellow, Light Green, Ivory

  • Fruit Color

    Ivory

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green

  • Bark Color

    Sandy Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Bold

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Edible, Feature Plant, Fruit / Fruit Tree, Mixed Border, Shade Trees, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes