Red silk-cotton tree is of moderate to large-size, typically to 60 feet, but much taller in the humid tropics. It often forms buttressed roots. The bark is grayish; the trunk and branches bear conical spines, especially in young trees. Branches grow in irregular whorls, tier above tier. The crown is mostly upright, broadly columnar to rounded and moderately dense. Leaves are borne on a long stalk, bright green, shiny, palmately compound, up to 24 inches long, with 3 - 7 leaflets, oblong to lanceolate in shape. The tree is briefly deciduous during which flowering commences. Flowers are densely grouped near branch tips and very showy. The very attractive blooms are cup-shaped, up to 7 inches across, thick, fleshy, waxy, and dull to bright red in color. The fruit is a woody capsule covered with grayish white hair and up to 6 inches long, filled with a cottony fiber into which small brown seeds are embedded. Upon ripening, the capsules burst open, releasing drifting floss and seeds. Seeds and cuttings are used for propagation. In its native area, the tree has several practical uses, young flowers are cooked and eaten, various tree parts have medicinal use and the soft fiber is a subsitute for true kapok, which is from ceiba pentandra. The soft wood is of little value. In cultivation, it does best on deep, sandy, well-drained soils, but is quite tolerant and hardy once established. Red silk-cotton has no reported serious pest or disease problems. It is a spectacular flowering tree, but given its size is best grown as a specimen tree for shade in large gardens and parks.