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Ceiba pentandra


Ceiba pentandra

Family Name: Malvaceae
Synonyms: Abelmoschus pentandra var. caribaea, Abelmoschus pentandrum
Common Name: Kapok Tree, Silk Cotton Tree, White Silk Cotton Tree, Kabu-Kabu, Kapok, Kapuk, Kekabu, P.W.D. Tree, 爪哇木棉


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Growth Form Tree (Big (>30m))
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Maximum Height 70 m
Tree or Palm – Trunk Diameter 3 m


Native Distribution Tropical America
Local Conservation Status Non-native (Spontaneous (Casual))

Description and Ethnobotany

Foliage The leaves are spirally arranged, palmately compound and the 5-8 leaflets are crowded at the end of a 7.5-20cm long petiole. Each leaflet is 8-18cm long, lanceolate, with an entire or slightly serrate margin.
Flowers The flowers are bisexual, 4cm wide, creamy white and have a milky fragrance. There are 5 sepals which are fused to form a tubular calyx, which is deciduous. The 5 petals are also partially fused at the base, to form a trumpet-shaped corolla. Flowers usually open after dusk and last one night, falling off by the following noon. They are pollinated by bats.
Fruits The fruits are large, smooth, leathery, oblong capsules up to 15cm in length, and pointed at both ends. The colour changes from green through brown to black when ripe, after which they split from the base to the apex into 5 sections, releasing the black seeds which are embedded in a mass of light, woolly hairs. The hairs are not attached to the seeds, but they can carry the seeds a great distance from the parent tree especially if there is a strong breeze.
Others - Plant Morphology This is a very tall, striking, deciduous tree that normally grows to 18 - 30 m in height, but in some cases may attain 70 m. It has a light grey columnar trunk that is covered with sharp conical thorns. The base of the trunk is wide with buttresses in older trees. It has a very distinctive form as the branches are borne on the clear, erect trunk in horizontal tiers, mostly in threes, resulting a pagoda shape that is even more obvious when the tree has shed its foliage and the branches are bare. This usually occurs when the tree is bearing fruits, which are large capsules that hang downwards from the branches, making the tree, at this time, appear in silhouette as if there were numerous bats roosting on the branches.In older trees, the lower branches are shed, causing the trunk to appear even taller.Propagation/Cultivation:Propagated from seeds, which germinate readily. Also from stem/branch cuttings. This is a fast-growing tree, and saplings can grow up to 4m per year. Prefers deep, moist, fertile soil. Requires full sun and moderate amounts of water, but can tolerate periodic waterlogging. Ethnobotanical Use (Other):This tree is grown in many tropical countries for the silky floss. The floss, being fine, soft, elastic and waterproof, has been used to fill pillows, cushions, mattresses, sleeping bags, and --especially during the early to mid-20th century-- life-jackets as well. The Malay name kapok, referring to the floss, is the universal trade name. Fruits have to be picked from the branches or shaken from the tree to harvest the floss.
Ethnobotanical Uses Food (Fruit & Vegetable;Herb and Spice)
Medicinal ( The Burmese consider the roots as a tonic. The Filipinos use the bark as a aphrodisiac. The Indochinese use the bark to treat fever and gonorrhoea. The Malay make use of the bark to treat children who have difficulty in breathing as a result of cold or asthma.)
Cultural / Religious ( Heritage Tree :  There are 9 individuals of Ceiba pentandra listed as Heritage Trees in Singapore. They are found all over various parts of Singapore. To find out more about these trees, please visit the Heritage Tree Register. )

Landscaping Features

Landscape Uses Roadside Tree / Palm

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Bat Food

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate


Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 3.0 (Tree - Intermediate Canopy)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) Green, Yellow / Golden

Image Repository



Master ID 1504
Species ID 2797
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 18 August 2022.