Cochlospermum gillivraei is a small tree, 3 to 12 metres in height, which is deciduous in the dry season. The bright yellow flowers appear before the new leaves. Seeds are borne in egg-shaped capsules,about 8 cm long, which split open when ripe to release black seeds embedded in a cotton-like fibre.
In cultivation the plant needs well drained soils and a sunny position.
Kapok may be propagated from seed.