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Ceiba Pentandra (Kapok tree) is one of the giants of the tropical forest. Its common name derives from the Malayan word for the tree and the silky fiber it produces. Kapok is a very large tree reaching heights of over 200 feet. It has a heavy buttressed straight trunk. Furthermore, the bark is brown, silvery or green with conical spines. As a result, it has large horizontal branches high on the trunk, giving the crown a flat appearance. The leaves are palmate up to 8 inches long with 5 to 9 entire leaflets.
The tree is deciduous during the dry season; in which male and female flowers are borne near the branch ends. The whitish yellow or pink flowers are small, numerous and fragrant, attracting bat, bee and bird pollinators. Additionally, the fruit is an elongated woody capsule up to 8 inches long. When ripe it splits open to expose the flossy silk cotton. The fiber is buoyant and inflammable and has multiple uses; for example historically in life jackets.
Furthermore, its seeds and leaves are edible. Kapok produces extremely light wood with limited uses. The tree tolerates a range of soils, is xerophytic and has only moderate nutritional requirements. It has no serious insect or disease problems and is easily propagated by seed or cuttings.
Ceiba Pentandra (Kapok tree) is a spectacular tree suitable only for landscape use in large open areas, along the seaside, in public parks and as a specimen tree.