Ceiba pentandra (L.) Gaertn.

Etymology Genus Latinised common name of the tree in South America
Species Five stamens
Family Malvaceae
Synonyms Bombax inerme L., Ceiba guineensis (Schumach.) A.Chev.
Common Names Kapok Tree, White Silk-cotton Tree
Status Exotic: Casual
Form Tree
Native Distribution Tropical America


Ceiba pentandra is a huge majestic tree with distinctive large buttress roots and tiered branching. The tree's stem is usually covered with conical prickles. The leaves are palmately compound.

Interesting Facts:

The flowers open about twenty minutes after sunset and last till the following noon (Corner, 1997). It is bat and bee pollinated. The fruit pods when ripe, split to expose the cotton. Note that there is another genus of plants (Gossypium species) that produce cotton too.

There are a number of large specimens marked as heritage trees, two of being in the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Form of the Kapok Tree. Taken in Kuching, Sarawak.

Large buttress roots. See photographer in the background as comparison.

Prickles on young stem.

Palmately compound leaves.

Leaf venation underside.

Mass blooming of yellowish flowers.

Flowers closeup.

Fruit pods.

Cotton and seeds released from the fruits.


Corner EJH. (1997) Wayside Trees of Malaya. Volume 1. 4th edition. The Malaysian Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur. 476 pp.

Author: Jake
Posted: 2014-04-03 / Modified: 2017-12-25