From the tropics of Africa, America, and Southeast Asia. Easily recognized by its huge, spiny, buttressed trunk, this majestic deciduous tree is hardy only in south Florida. Given good soil and moderate to regular moisture, it grows rapidly to 6070 ft. tall and 1540 ft. wide. Leaves are medium green, to 6 in. long, each with five to seven leaflets. The tree blooms before leaf-out, bearing cup-shaped, 12-in. flowers in white, pink, or yellow. The flowers are followed by woody seed capsules contain- ing a cottonlike substancethe kapok of commerce (used as a stuffing for pillows and lifejackets).
Silk-cotton tree makes a fine street tree or large shade tree. It needs plenty of room, though: Its trunk can grow to 9 ft. wide, with buttresses extending out to 15 ft. or more.