Well, it’s been a couple weeks since we (regretfully) arrived home from our vacation, but it’s taken us that long to get back on track and caught back up! In the beginning of February, we loaded the kiddos up and took a week long, fun in the sun cruise to Jamaica, and on our trip we came across an interesting tree that we HAD to share!
Pictured to the left, you’ll see a picture of a humongous tree, called the Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra). This tree is also known as the Ceiba or Silk Cotton Tree. It can grow over 130′ tall, averaging approximately 10′ growth per year. The Mayans believe this tree is a sacred tree, considering it a “ladder” to the heavens for the souls of family members and friends to climb.
It has gorgeous five-petaled pink and white flowers, however looks can be decieving. These flowers have quite the putrid smell, and open in the evening to be pollinated by tropical bats. These bats pollinate the horizontal branches, where other plants called epiphyte grow.
The majority of the commercial Kapok trees come from the Island of Java in Indonesia. There are many unique uses for this tree, ranging from furniture to insulation and to the stuffing in some life jackets. In WWII, the life jackets were referred to as Mae Wests, and used the Kapok tree fibers because they are light weight and waterproof. The Kapok oil is used in some soaps, and the seeds are edible. This soft wood is used in Africa for canoes, wood carvings and caskets.
Be sure to look closely to the picture at the right to learn more interesting things about this tree! Now, if only we could grow it in Iowa…