Kapok tree in bloom
The Kapok tree is an emergent tree of the tropical rainforests, and is often described as majestic. It can grow to a height of 150 feet or more, towering over other trees in the rainforest. Originally a native to South America it now has spread to the primary rainforests of West Africa, and the Southeast Asian rainforests of the Malay Peninsula, and the Indonesian archipelago.
The straight trunks are cylindrical, smooth and gray in color, and can reach a diameter of 9 feet. Large spines protrude from the trunk to discourage damage to the trunk. Thin, plank type buttresses stabilize the giant and can extend to 30 feet. The wood is a pinkish white to ashy brown in color, with a straight grain. The branches grow in horizontal tiers, and spread widely.
The crown has an open umbrella shape. Many plants and animals grow and live in the branches of the kapok tree. Birds nest in it, and mammals use the huge branches as highways. Frogs breed in the pools of water that collect in the bromeliads.