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Ceiba pentandra - Kapok


Native to:



Mexico, Central America, Caribbean and northern South America.

Secondary forests. Up to 2000 meters above sea level. Tree, 30 meters tall.

Ceiba pentandra - Kapok

Ecological value:

Flowers important to bees, bats and moths. Fast growing pioneer. Belongs to a genus of 20 species found in the Americas. Responds well to coppicing. Used in reforestation programs. Often occurs in secondary forests. Roots may cause damage to buildings and roads.

Material uses:

Wood is soft, light weight, susceptible to decay and fungal and insect attacks. Used in boxes, plywood, veneers, cheap furniture. Gum, red dye from bark. Quality seed fiber used in pillows, clothes, stuffed toys, upholstery, hospital applications. Fibers are water resistant, buoyant, flammable.

Edible uses:

A vegetable oil can be pressed from kapok seeds. Wood ash as salt substitute. Inter-cropped as shade tree for coffee and cacao.

Medicinal use:

Bark decoction used as a diuretic, aphrodisiac, and to treat headaches and type II diabetes. It is used as an additive in some versions of the hallucinogenic drink Ayahuasca.

Other details:

Economical life: 60 years. A single tree can bear 300-400 pods per year, yielding up to 20 kg of fiber from about 5 to 50 years of age. Wood ash rich in potash - used in soap. Non-drying oil from seed (20-25%). Fiber is resistant to vermin. Weighs 1/8 the weight of cotton. Insulative properties.


Amy Feng/Christine Facella


“Ceiba Pentandra (L.) Gaertn. | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science.” n.d. Plants of the World Online.
“Ceiba Pentandra - Useful Tropical Plants.” n.d. Accessed November 28, 2023.
Uphof. J. C. Th., ‘Dictionary of Economic Plants’, Weinheim, 1959
Image source: Atamari, Philstone.

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