The Neotropics is the most species-rich area in the world, and the mechanisms that generated and maintain its biodiversity are still debated. This paper contributes to the debate by investigating the evolutionary and biogeographic history of the genus Ceiba Mill. (Malvaceae, Bombacoideae). Ceiba comprises 18 mostly Neotropical species, largely endemic to two major biomes, seasonally dry tropical forests (SDTFs) and rain forests. Its species are among the most characteristic elements of Neotropical SDTF, one of the most threatened biomes in the tropics. Phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequence data (from the nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacers [nrITS] for 30 accessions representing 14 species of Ceiba) recovered the genus as monophyletic. The phylogeny showed geographic and ecological structure in three main clades: (i) a rain forest lineage of nine accessions of C. pentandra sister to the remaining species; (ii) a highly supported clade composed of C. schottii and C. aesculifolia from Central American and Mexican SDTF, plus two accessions of C. samauma from semi-humid, inter Andean valleys in Peru; and (iii) a highly supported South American SDTF clade including 10 species showing little sequence variation. Within this South American SDTF clade, no species represented by multiple accessions were resolved as monophyletic. We demonstrate that the patterns of species age, monophyly, and geographic structure previously reported for SDTF species within the Leguminosae family are not shared by Ceiba, suggesting that further phylogenetic studies of unrelated groups are required to understand general patterns.