Balsa is native to Central América, the Antilles and western South America. It reaches a height of 100 feet, with a trunk 3 feet in diameter. The leaves have long petioles and blades up to 16 inches long and wide. Flowers are solitary and about 5 inches long. Fruits are brown capsules up to 10 inches long that open in five parts to expose a mass of fibers that contains the seeds. It flowers during winter and spring, and fruits open during spring and summer. The wood is very light and is used to build model airplanes. Trunks are used to make rafts. The generic name means pale yellow, probably in reference to the mass of stamens that surrounds the pistil, or to the petals, which turn yellowish as they age. The species name means pyramid-shaped, apparently in reference to the shape of the leaf.

The photographed tree is behind the Ramírez de Arellano Building and is the only member of the species in the campus.

Ochroma pyramidale (Malvaceae)