White silk cotton tree
Not native to Florida
This fast-growing large tree is native from Mexico and the Caribbean (including Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) through Central America and into South America to the Amazon basin. It is also found in Africa where it is thought to have been naturally introduced by floating seed pods and is now one of the largest trees on that continent. Kapok can be found in landscapes in South Florida and occasionally into Central Florida. It is intolerant of frost.
Kapok trees can grow to over 70m (230 ft.) tall with thick trunks and large root buttresses. The trunk and larger branches are covered with large simple thorns or spikes. The leaves are palmate compound with five to nine leaflets 7.6-17.8cm (3-7 in.) long emanating from a single point. The blooming is from December to February (in Florida, the Caribbean & Mexico) before the leaves appear. The creamy-white flowers have a pungent fragrance, attracting bats, one of the primary pollinators. The bell-shaped calyx is shallowly lobed and holds the five pubescent petals and five stamens fused into a tube. The fruit is an ellipsoid capsule 7.6-15.2cm (3-6 in.) long and 5cm (2 in.) wide containing hundreds of tiny seeds embedded in a cotton-like substance called kapok.
The common name kapok is used mostly in English-speaking countries and in Spanish-language countries ceiba is the most common name. Kapok can also refer to the cotton-like fluff in the seed pods which was used in life jeckets for its buoyant properties until synthetic replacements became available,
Ceiba pentandra is a member of the Malvaceae - Mallow family.
Other species of the Ceiba genus in the Wild Florida Photo database:
Ceiba speciosa - SILK FLOSS TREE
Date record last modified: Nov 13, 2019