Amidst the dry bush around Townsville at this time of year, the large golden-yellow flowers of Cochlospermum gillivraei stand out on its temporarily bare branches.
This small deciduous trees grows naturally on rocky slopes like Cape Cleveland, Castle Hill and Magnetic Island. It has proved hardy and fast-growing in sunny, well-drained local gardens and revegetation sites.
After pollination, large green fruit develop, slowly turning brown and eventually splitting to release seeds embedded in a mass of fine fibres, known as ‘kapok’.
In times past, fibre from our native kapok trees would have been useful for soft padding and for fire-lighting.
A somewhat similar but much larger Central American tree, Ceiba pentandra, provides commercial kapok that was widely used for stuffing mattresses, cushions and even life-jackets until synthetic fibre products became available.
See our species page for more details and an ancient tale about Cochlospermum gillivraei