This is an elegant and graceful shade tree, which deserves to be in much greater use as a street and garden tree. Its natural umbrella shape and soft foliage provide a cooling canopy of dappled shade. It is drought and frost tolerant, grows only to about eight metres high, and although it is deciduous the leaves are soft and create little mess. Besides, it is late coming into leaf and looses its leaves early in autumn. It is very decorative in January and February when it is covered in masses of pink powder-puff flowers, providing nectar for birds and bees. The flowers are very small, occurring in bundles, with the stamens much longer and more showy than the petals. These then give way to small, flat seed pods. So instead of buying a shade umbrella for the back garden, plant a silk tree and prune off the lower branches to give you summer shade, cooling transpiration and beauty.
The silk tree is a member of a genus of about 150 tropical and subtropical trees which are found in Australia, Asia, Africa and the Americas. It is named after Filippo degli Albizzi, the Italian who first introduced it from Persia (Iran) to Europe in the mid-eighteenth century. Besides their ornamental value, some species of Albizzia are used for timber, for their antibacterial properties, and in semi-arid regions as a forage crop.