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 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.
The seed from which this Tree grew was a present from the Bogor Botanic Gardens, West Java, and the Tree was planted here in 1933 by the former Director of SBG, Eric Holttum in 1933. The current Herbarium located below ground was positioned in order to protect the roots of this tree. The Kapok is the National Tree of Puerto Rico.