Impressive in size and muscular in form, kapok has fragrant dull white flowers in late winter that produces pods filled with cottony fibers once used for stuffing lifejackets, furniture and pillows. A massive deciduous tree native to South America, it has been cultivated all across the tropics for so long that often it is misleadingly listed as native to Africa, southern Asia or "pantropical". The smooth gray bark of this monstrous plant puts elephants and the largest of dinosaurs to shame. With ages the trunk becomes magnificently buttressed.
In late winter and early spring, while the tree is barren of leaves, the green-gray branches bear five-petaled, waxy, creamy white to light yellow (sometimes flushed with pale pink) flowers that smell of milk. First opening at night, these pendent clusters of blossoms are pollinated naturally by bats. The boat-shaped fruits that form thereafter are first green and ripen to a felty dark brown, splitting open to reveal the white cotton fiber balls (the "kapok") surrounding the black seeds. From spring to autumn the horizontal branches also are cloaked in large palmate (hand-like) leaves the size of a dinner plate. Each leaf has five to seven oval leaflets.
Grow kapok in full sun in a spacious location in a fertile, well-draining soil. Ample rainfall in the growing season must be followed by a pronounced dry period in the winter. Small branches are somewhat brittle in wind. It is no less than spectacular as a specimen shade tree for parks, large estates or public gardens. There are seemingly two natural forms of this species: one has smooth bark and has creamy white flowers while another has more brownish bark that often retains thorns and produces flowers that are more reddish. (info source: Learn2Grow.com)
Genus - Ceiba
Species - Pentandra
Common name - Silk Cotton Tree
Pre-Treatment - Not-required
Hardiness zones - 9 - 12
Height - 100'-200' / 30 - 61(100) m
Spread - 50'-90' / 15 - 27(80) m
Plant type - Tree
Vegetation type - Evergreen
Exposure - Full sun
Growth rate - Medium
Soil PH - Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil type - Loam, sand, well drained
Water requirements - Average Water, drought tolerant
Landscape uses - Feature Plant, Shade Trees, Street Trees, Tropical
Germination rate - 80%
Bloom season - Late Winter
Leaf / Flower color - Green, Dark Green / Light Yellow, Light Pink, Ivory-
|Germination||The seeds are sown in seed beds or in sand boxes in a greenhouse. |
When the first pair of leaves appears and the seedlings are 12-15 cm, the roots are pruned and the seedlings transferred to polybags. The plants are ready for planting in the field 4-6 months after sowing when they are 30-35 cm tall. Easy to propagate vegetatively by cuttings.