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Carolina Gardening: Anyone here ever try to grow a balsa wood tree?

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CoreHHI
Bluffton, SC
(Zone 9a)

March 21, 2007
1:18 AM

Post #3304146

They seem to grow really fast, just for fun I might give it a try but I can't find much about them or for that matter where to get seeds.
greenthumb_NC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

March 21, 2007
8:21 AM

Post #3304502

Here is a little clip about balsa wood that I found ...

The balsa wood tree, scientifically named ochroma lagopus, is a relatively fast growing plant found primarily in Central and South America. Balsa wood trees grow best under the conditions found in rainforests, ideally in mountainous terrain between rivers. The country of Ecuador is perhaps the largest exporter of balsa wood, although many local farmers consider the plant to be little more than a weed.

What an interesting topic!! I don't know if it would be possible to grow them or not.

Karin ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
CoreHHI
Bluffton, SC
(Zone 9a)

March 21, 2007
10:47 PM

Post #3307244

Where I live is jungle like, 6 months out of the year. I was thinking start the seeds inside in the fall and put them outside in May or June. I read somewhere that they can grow 10 ft or so in a year. You can buy seeds pretty cheap it might be worth a go.

Found it.

The Balsa tree produces one of the lightest and strongest woods -- Pound for pound stronger than oak

Native to the tropical regions of South America, the balsa, or corkwood, tree is noted for its extremely lightweight wood. The word balsa is Spanish for float or raft. Spanish explorers found the natives of the New World using the wood for rafts. Balsa trees have large, ivory-colored flowers and large, heart-shaped leaves that fall off every year. Balsa seeds sprout quickly, and young trees may grow 12 feet in their first six months. In ten years they may be as tall as 90 feet and as much as 3 feet in diameter. Well-seasoned balsa is the lightest wood known, only half as heavy as cork. A cubic foot of balsa wood weighs only 6 to 8 pounds. There are many air spaces within it, helping to make the wood good insulation against heat, cold, vibration, and electricity. Balsa wood has many commercial uses. Because of its insulating properties, it is used for lining incubators, refrigerators, and cold-storage rooms as well as for soundproofing airplanes. It has long been used in making model airplanes and other toys.

A handsome specimen for sunny tropical climates. Needs bright light if grown indoors. One of the fastest growing trees known
Xeramtheum
Summerville, SC
(Zone 8a)

March 23, 2007
1:23 PM

Post #3311983

Balsa is very invasive. Please reconsider growing one.

X
CoreHHI
Bluffton, SC
(Zone 9a)

March 23, 2007
11:02 PM

Post #3314078

Wouldn't it just die as soon as the weather cools off in the fall? I can't picture it making it through the winter. Any ways I would be chopping it down in the fall to make something out of it. What I don't know but it's a thought.
Xeramtheum
Summerville, SC
(Zone 8a)

March 23, 2007
11:20 PM

Post #3314189

The flowers produce a fluffy seed which can be windborne for miles.

X
StonoRiver
Johns Island, SC

March 24, 2007
10:40 PM

Post #3317095

This may sound like a snotty-ass question, Xeramtheum, but trust me, it's not! If Balsa wood could be effectively grown in the Carolinas, wouldn't we have been growing it commercially for many years (economics trumps ecology every time!)? We build a lot of boats in SC, many of which use balsa coring as a key element in their construction, and many boat-builders world-wide still use balsa in their fabrication. To become an invasive pest it would seem like it would have to thrive here. The fact that no balsa industry thrives here suggests that the plant itself won't thrive here. So if it won't thrive here, it shouldn't be a danger for invasiveness. Having said that, this kind of thinking is what contibuted to my mistake with Ipomea accuminata...(now corrected). Thoughts?
Xeramtheum
Summerville, SC
(Zone 8a)

March 24, 2007
10:57 PM

Post #3317143

Whatever. Balsa is on the invasive list. Perhaps it's not grown commercially because it is on the invasive list or perhaps the climate here cannot produce the quality needed for boat building. Just because the boating industry doesn't have balsa forests in South Carolina or anywhere else doesn't lead to the conclusion that it is not invasive.

Too many of our native plants have been decimated by introduced plants thought harmless or on a whim. What people fail to realize is that when you introduce a foreign plant into an ecosystem, without the vectors and diseases that keep it in check, you are opening a pandoras box. Just look at kudzu in the south, mellaleuca in south florida and brazilian pepper trees in the south.

X
CoreHHI
Bluffton, SC
(Zone 9a)

March 24, 2007
10:59 PM

Post #3317149

The only problem I see is when or if the balsa produces seeds that survive the winter and start growing the next spring when it warms up. At the speed they're supposed to grow I could see balsa wood trees popping up everywhere and dying off in the winter. I guess that pattern could continue year after year. On the other hand I've never hear of balsa growing anywhere around here, seems like someone must of tried growing it by now.
Xeramtheum
Summerville, SC
(Zone 8a)

March 25, 2007
5:50 PM

Post #3319323

The thing is, plants are very resilient and resourceful. Out of the thousands of seeds 1 tree can produce, all it will take is one that turns out to be resistant to frost. With our winters getting progressively warmer, I don't think it would take too long for natural selection to produce a frost resistant tree.

As serious gardeners, we are the primary stewards of our local habitats. It is our responsibility to maintain and protect these habitats by our choice of plants and how we use them.

Every state has been invaded by species of plants that have run amok. As I said before, what people do not realize, is that when you take something out of its native habitat, you usually do not take the natural checks and balances, such as disease and predators that keep them in check.

Responsible gardening is a must, an intrinsic duty we all share. It should come naturally and willingly to choose wisely. In the end, the choice has always been yours. Please choose wisely.

Xeramtheum
CoreHHI
Bluffton, SC
(Zone 9a)

March 25, 2007
10:15 PM

Post #3320344

Okay, that's why i asked the question in the first place.

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