Walking through the cloisters of the Cattedrale di Monreale (Sicily), I came across this unusual looking tree. At first glance its huge fruit could be mistaken for avocados, but a look at its comical, baobab-shaped and prickly trunk told me otherwise.
The Silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa), originates in the tropical forests of South America. Belonging to the same family as the baobab, it can grow up to 25 metres in height. The young tree has a green trunk, which turns grey as it matures and is covered with thick conical thorns, which store water for use in dryer times.
The fruit are woody, oval pods containing black, bean-sized seeds from which vegetable oil can be obtained, whilst the soft, fluffy, cottonwool substance has many uses: stuffing, packaging, paper ropes etc.
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