A fast growing tree that can reach up to 50 m in height. Trunk is massive, covered in thorns, heavily buttressed. Crown is made up of branches that are arranged in a tiered fashion, resembling a pagoda. A deciduous tree, it sheds its leaves before flowering and fruiting in response to drought. Flowers are cream coloured, milky scented. Fruits are large hanging pods that split open when ripe to release white fibre to which tiny black seeds are attached. The fibre is buoyant and water-resistant and was used in the past to stuff life-jackets, pillows and mattresses.
This Heritage Kapok was planted in 1972, a year before the Zoo opened. The Kapok is the National Tree of Puerto Rico.