Ceiba chodatii is a deciduous tree that grows to 12m or more. Its trunk is bottle-shaped - swollen at the third of its height where water is stored for use during the dry season.
It has grey bark, usually with many conical prickles, although in younger trees the bark is green due to the high concentration of chlorophyll, which allows it to perform photosynthesis even when leaves are absent.
Leaves are 8–15cm. They are digitately compound, with 5–7 leaflets 5–10 by 2.5–5cm, and petiole 5–20cm.
Flowers are solitary, ivory to pale yellow, with 5 hairy petals.
Fruit is a ligneous capsule, 8–20cm, opening by 5 valves.
Seeds are black and numerous, embedded in fluffy material resembling cotton.
The tree flowers during February and March.