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Chinese Parasol Tree, Varnish Tree

Firmiana simplex

Family: Malvaceae (mal-VAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Firmiana (fer-mee-AY-nuh) (Info)
Species: simplex (SIM-plecks) (Info)
Synonym:Firmiana platanifolia
Synonym:Sterculia platanifolia



Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Flowers are fragrant

Water Requirements:

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


over 40 ft. (12 m)


30-40 ft. (9-12 m)


USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade


Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:

Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

White/Near White

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall


Grown for foliage



Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

, (2 reports)


Atmore, Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama

Brantley, Alabama

Cowarts, Alabama

Daleville, Alabama

Huntsville, Alabama

Loxley, Alabama

Vincent, Alabama

Phoenix, Arizona

Little Rock, Arkansas

North Little Rock, Arkansas

Aptos, California

Fresno, California

San Marcos, California

Keystone Heights, Florida

Pensacola, Florida

Spring Hill, Florida

Blakely, Georgia

Eastman, Georgia

Elberfeld, Indiana

Evansville, Indiana

Lawrence, Kansas

Louisville, Kentucky

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Greenwell Springs, Louisiana

New Iberia, Louisiana

Shreveport, Louisiana

Thibodaux, Louisiana

Jarrettsville, Maryland

Braxton, Mississippi

Florence, Mississippi

Hernando, Mississippi

Leakesville, Mississippi

Madison, Mississippi

Mathiston, Mississippi

Natchez, Mississippi

Rienzi, Mississippi

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina

Bethel, Ohio

Dayton, Ohio

Edmond, Oklahoma

Norman, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Stillwater, Oklahoma

Florence, South Carolina

Arlington, Tennessee

Pocahontas, Tennessee

Austin, Texas

Baytown, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas

Garland, Texas

Kerrville, Texas

Kyle, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Shepherd, Texas

Norfolk, Virginia

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Apr 29, 2015, SunWukong from Mora d'Ebre
Spain wrote:

This is NOT the Varnish Tree, which is completely different. In Chinese, Firmiana simplex is called Wutong. The Varnish tree is Vernicia (two species), and is also called Tong in Chinese (You tong or Mu you tong).

Firmiana seeds are edible - probably best roasted. No part of the tree is poisonous, as far as I am aware (but who would want to eat anything other than the seeds anyway?).

I have seen this tree growing in Beijing, which can be very cold in winter, so it is undoubtedly able to stand quite severe frosts. It also likes a good hot summer, and, like many woody plants, survives frost better if the wood has been well ripened by plenty of summer heat.

As to whether it is invasive or not - clearly this depends. Where growing conditions really ... read more


On Nov 9, 2013, stellab3 from Oklahoma City, OK wrote:

I like my Chinese Parasol Tree. I put it in the wrong place, and it does multiply. The wrong place is over the walkway to my front door. When it blooms, it drops the sweet smelling little blooms on the walk in front of my house leading to the front door. If I sweep it up - almost daily, it's okay. Every fly, bee, butterfly, moth and wasp in North America likes these blooms. If they get wet, they make a gooey paste which tracks into the house. If it weren't over the walkway to the house, it wouldn't be a problem. I think the seed pods are nothing short of art. They look like a piece of art deco, and I love them. The little berries do plant themselves in my flower beds, but I know what they look like, and pull them up when I see them. I wouldn't want them to grow every where they turn... read more


On Apr 30, 2013, Raylan from Lake Worth, TX wrote:

I found this seedling growing in the container of another plant I bought at a nursery. On a whim, I planted it along with the plant I purchased. I had no idea what it was. I planted in the garden behind my pool and as it grew I wondered if it could damage the pool as it was above the pvc that operated the waterfall. I took a leaf to the nursery where it had hitchhiked from and was shocked when they showed me their tree which although gorgeous was easily 30 feet. We moved the tree to another garden where it has grown to approximately 20 feet in 6 years. It has survived one exceptionally cold winter and a couple record-breaking summers. I have read negative reviews of this tree on this site, but I love it and its beautiful foliage.


On Jun 17, 2012, burien_gardener from Burien (SW Seattle), WA (Zone 8b) wrote:

It appears this tree could be an invasive in the warmer US southeast. Since it prefers moist soils, it's less likely to be a problem in the warmer southwest -- though it might colonize areas with dependable moisture (seeps, stream riparian).

Here in the Pacific Northwest it is unlikely to be a problem, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be vigilant.


On Mar 3, 2012, Little_D_Farm from Eastman, GA wrote:

We inherited one of the chinese parasol trees with our home thirty years ago. It was brought to my husband's grandfather from Texas 20 years prior to that as a seedling. The unusual thing about it was that it never produced flowers or seed until about 15 years ago and it was all of the sudden and for no obvious reason. It was right outside our kitchen window so we would have noticed had it produced flowers and seeds over those earlier years. Once it began to flower and shed seed, it died a few years after that. Because of the sentimental value of the tree to my husband, we had saved a few trees that came up from the seed and now we have several mature trees in the yard. Invasive is not what we would call it but we do have several trees to come up every year from the trees we have tra... read more


On Feb 11, 2012, 1moretree from Bethel, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Very interesting looking tree. There's several growing near me at the Cincinnati, OH Zoo & Botanical Gardens, so surviving Z6b at least. I collected some seeds off the ground last season and sprouted a few. They are currently in the ground and trying out their first winter in my yard, one will be in fairly open shade, the other one part sun. I have lots of room, so looking forward to them. No complaints, yet.


On Sep 11, 2011, ChuckArk from North Little Rock, AR wrote:

I live in North Little Rock, AR (zone 7 - + 5 f) and have planted a few of these three years ago from seeds that I bought on line. One is 20 ft tall and blooming and producing seed pots.
These are beautiful and exotic trees. I have limited success propagating but am learning how to do this.


On Apr 10, 2011, gigi4two from Spring Hill, FL wrote:

I agree that the plant does provide wonderful shade and the leaves and trunk are very pretty. That being said, the negative about this tree is that it's over-running my (smallish) backyard, as well as all of the neighboring yards. The tree was given to me, in a coffee can, by a co-worker over (20) years ago, with the promise that in 5 years I would be sitting under it; well, that's for sure! My 1st tree is over 40' tall and spreads over 25' wide!! .... and, I'm always pruning it --- trying to keep it in the confins of my own yard, althought it's too late for that now! :)


On May 16, 2010, scshul from Birmingham, AL wrote:

please help me. my yard is over run with this plant. i'm sure if i only had one tree there would be no problem. they are everywhere!! i don't know how to get rid of them. if anyone knows, please let me know.


On Apr 3, 2010, OKplantnerd38 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

I became familiar with this tree when I lived in Houston and New Orleans, so I was surprised to discover one growing in OKC (Zone 7A) in the landscaping around the back patio of one of my favorite bars/hangouts. It's in a slight microclimate at best and has had no winter damage in the 3 years I have lived here. Interesting greenish bark in the winter, and it always makes a great conversation-starter because most locals have never seen one and wonder what "that tree in the corner with the big leaves" is. I've made a lot of acquaintences and even a few good friends because of Firmiana simplex!


On Feb 24, 2010, edthetreeguy from Cowarts, AL wrote:

Do the United States a favor and DO NOT plant this tree! It is a noxious invasive species, as are many plants which produce copious amounts of flowers. Makes sense, really, since thousands of flowers easily translates into tens of thousands, even millions of invasive seed (see Chinese & Japanese Privet Hedge, Japanese honeysuckle, Kudzu, cogon grass, sawtooth oak, et al.). Birds eat the seed, then plant them in all of your neighbors yards, and their neighbors yards & so on and on.

If you want to plant something in the good ole' US of A, plant something NATIVE to your area! It will do well in your area You'll pay less for it in the long run.


On Jul 4, 2009, patdhen from Baton Rouge, LA wrote:

Our landscape architect planted the Chinese Parasol tree in the front courtyard that faces the west in 2003. I was not aware that all the leaves would fall off during the mild winter here in Baton Rouge La. However, in the spring, all the leaves came back. The trunk is very limber and it had to be tied down to keep it growing straight. Last year there was blooms in the top of the tree only. This year there are blooms everywhere on all the branches. The tree is about 20' tall and provides good shade and the birds like to hide beneath the leaves. We love the tropical look of this tree! In 7 years we have not noticed any sprouts coming up in the courtyard.


On Sep 14, 2008, luckymama1311 from Round Rock, TX wrote:

I don't know if I am allowed to ask questions but I don't see anything against it, so here goes?
I am assuming this plant is poisonous?
I live near austin, tx. will it do well here?
I have two small children is it safe to have in the yard?
how hard is it to clean up to keep from multiplying all over the yard? thanks!


On Apr 10, 2008, cactusman102 from Lawrence, KS wrote:

Interesting Foliage! Beautiful winter green bark! Hardiness listed is too conservative. Have seen growing at OBGA gardens (OSU) in Stillwater (zone 7a) and in Lawrence KS (zone 6a) in a protected spot. In Stillwater, the tree survived -19 with damage to top half. Suckers came back and made it more bushy. In Lawrence KS, the tree survived many nights of 0 to -8 and highs in the teens for many times over 3 winters.


On Nov 9, 2006, Nkytree from Burlington, KY wrote:

Cox Arboretum in Dayton, OH has an impressive specimen considering how far north they are above zone 7. Their tree is about 30ft tall with multiple trunks, and has been said to have survived -20F winters. A few people are propagating seed from this tree in hopes of extending this species range.


On Oct 27, 2006, jeri11 from Central, LA (Zone 8b) wrote:

There is a chinese parasol tree at the door to Jax's Brewery in New Orleans that has been there forever. I collected seeds and planted them and everyone came up. I've given them away and have one in my yard. It's doing great. No flowers yet.


On Jul 29, 2006, escambiaguy from Atmore, AL (Zone 8b) wrote:

While the foliage may be attractive, the flowers and seeds are ugly. It has also started to be invasive around my area as I have seen many sprouting up on the roadsides.


On May 12, 2005, zsnp from Pensacola, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

If you want some shade in your yard during the summer, get this tree. It has huge leaves. And it grows almost like a mushroom; it grows very quickly!!


On Jun 2, 2004, enalter from Leakesville, MS (Zone 8b) wrote:

I have one large tree, probably 20 years old, and has weathered many a storm, the large trunk keeps putting on new sprouts, and continues to bloom and put off many seeds which come up all over the yard, easily transplanted to pots, which I have done, and given away. This tree is a very fast grower, at least 5 to 6 foot each year.