||This very distinctive genus of large tropical deciduous trees consists of around 20 species, the majority from tropical Africa but with a few scattered across southern Asia as far as northern Australia. They generally have thick straight trunks with tiered branches and often with buttresses at the base, bark that is often armed with scattered conical prickles, and compound leaves with 5 or more leaflets attached to the end of a common stalk (digitate). Large flowers are borne on leafless branches in the tropical dry season, each with 5 tongue-shaped red, white or yellow petals and a central mass of long stamens. Fruits are large and more or less football-shaped, splitting when ripe to release numerous oily seeds embedded in a tangle of white hairs like cottonwool. In fact Bombax is not too distantly related to the cotton genus (Gossypium) though traditionally placed in a separate family, and is also closely related to the kapok genus (Ceiba). The trees mostly grow along river valleys or around rock outcrops in regions with a distinct dry season, their crowns often emerging above the surrounding forest. The flowers may be visited by bats, which act as pollinating agents.
||CULTIVATION: In the tropics they are easily grown, preferring a sheltered site and deep, fertile, well-drained soil with adequate subsoil moisture. Under such conditions growth is fast, although it soon slows down as the tree matures; the tree can sometimes be short lived due to attack by termites and other insects. Propagation is easily achieved either from fresh seed or by using cuttings up to 3 ft (1 m) long from branch tips, planted in the wet season.
||Closely related to Myoporum, this genus of a single species of evergreen shrub occurs in the West Indies and nearby coastal regions of South America. In foliage it strongly resembles some of the Australian and Pacific island species of Myoporum but differs in its peculiar flowers?these are strongly 2-lipped with both lips rolled back when fully open to expose the stamens. Petals are orange-brown on the outside and greenish white inside with a dense row of crimson hairs along the center of each lip. The fruit is an orange berry.
||CULTIVATION: This genus is seldom cultivated outside its native region but is easily grown with similar requirements to myoporums. It appears to be adapted to seashore environments. Propagate from seed or cuttings.