Adventures In Mexico #18: The Mexican Silk Floss Tree


By Malcolm Callister

It was 7 February, I was walking our dogs on the cobblestone streets on San Antonio Tlayacpan Mexico, when I first saw them, a grove of six Silk Floss Trees. Many of the hanging green/brown melon sized seed pods had burst overnight leaving what looked like snowballs hanging on the trees.

Morning Walk

Each morning I try to walk a different route with the dogs. I speak with different people, people doing different things, I get to observe the area in a different way and in a different light than I do when driving a car.

It was daylight, but the sun had still not risen over the mountains to the east.  San Antonio Tlayacpan a small village is on the north shore of Lake Chapala. The lake is nestled in a valley at 5000 ft., above sea level, surrounded by a ring of tall mountains.

As you walk the narrow cobblestone streets lined with brightly colored houses, you see the community waking up.   You tread carefully avoiding potholes that wait endlessly for repair, you look at the women outside their homes brushing yesterdays the dust out the door onto the street. Rinsing the sidewalks and the street with buckets of water, to help keep today's dust down.  They lean on their brooms and chat with neighbors our strangers with dogs.  They are happy, friendly people.

You detect the smell of wood smoke, from the outdoor ovens. Shop keepers are opening their stores.  The small cafés with their two or three plastic tables and chairs are set up on the sidewalks. They are busy crushing fresh oranges, to sell the juice. The smell of coffee is added to the morning air. I get to practice my bad Spanish.


That is Different

 Then as I rounded a corner onto a wider road with a grass bank separating the street from a field with cattle, I saw them. "Wow," I thought "That is Different."  Around the corner was a grove of what is known locally as, Silk Floss Trees. The tree trunk is a green color that ages with time, like human hair, and turns grey. The tree trunk and main branches are studded with thick 2 cm long conical thorns, looking like a medieval mace.  From the higher branches hang seed pods about the size of a melon.  The fruit slowly ripens, and then one night they burst open, with the husk pealing back to the stem.  The ball of white cotton wool-like substance that contains the seeds expands out of the bottom of the seed pod.   They look like snowballs hanging on a tree in the tropics.


Life Goes On

The floss dry’s in the sun and will blow away on the breeze over the next few days taking seeds to a new beginning, and the life cycle goes on.


M&L Tip of the week

RVers, beware.  Some Mexican towns with narrow streets prohibit the use of trucks with double rear wheels.