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BOMBAX ceiba

Image of Bombax ceiba

Michael Charters, www.calflora.net

Family

Bombacaceae

Botanical Name

BOMBAX ceiba

Plant Common Name

Cotton Tree, Red Kapok, Red-silk-cotton Tree

General Description

This large, spiny, buttress-trunked deciduous tree has long been cultivated for its showy red flowers and fiber-filled seedpods. It is native to arid river valleys and open woodlands from India to northern Australia.

The spreading branches of this tropical tree are lined with large, hand-shaped, long-stemmed leaves, each with five to seven oval leaflets. The huge, waxy, red to orange-red blooms open from plump green buds in late winter and early spring, a week or two before the leaves emerge. Each flower has five heavy-textured petals and a central boss of yellow stamens. The petals curl back after opening. Bats and birds pollinate the short-lived, nectar-rich blooms. Large, woody, dark-brown seed pods filled with silky fiber develop after the flowers fade.

Grow this tree in full sun and fertile, deep, well-drained soil. Water freely during the growing season but sparingly in winter. Bombax ceiba makes a showy specimen tree for tropical parks and estates. Its pods were traditionally harvested for their fiber ("kapok"), which was used to stuff bedding and other items. A close relative, Ceiba pentandra, is the world's primary source of kapok fiber.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 7

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    60'-85' / 18.3m - 25.9m

  • Width

    60'-70' / 18.3m - 21.3m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring, Late Winter

  • Native To

    Southern Asia, Southeastern Asia, India, China, Melanesia, Australia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Red, Orange Red

  • Fruit Color

    Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Bark Color

    Gray, Silver

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Shade Trees, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    No