Ceiba pentandra is a tropical tree of the order Malvales and the family Malvaceae, native to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, northern South America, and [as the variety Ceiba pentandra var. guineensis] to tropical west Africa. Kapok is the most used common name for the tree and may also refer to the cotton obtained from its seed pods. The tree is also known as the Java cotton, Java kapok, Silk cotton or ceiba.
The tree grows to 60–70 m [200–230 ft] tall and has a very substantial trunk up to 3 m [10 ft] in diameter with buttresses. The trunk and many of the larger branches are often [but not always] crowded with very large, robust simple thorns. The leaves are compound of 5 to 9 leaflets, each up to 20 cm [8 in] and palm like. Adult trees produce several hundred 15 cm [6 in] seed pods.