Kapok - One Tree, Many Uses

        The magnificent kapok tree (ceiba pentandra) is primarily known for its unmistakably soft, silky and fluffy fiber which comes from the tree's unique seed pods. In the US, kapok fiber became popular in the 1940s and was commonly used as a stuffing material to make pillows, mattresses and upholstery. Apart from the fluffy fiber it gives, there are many other gifts from this fascinating 165 foot tall tree.

        Grown in areas with abundant rainfall, kapok is a deciduous tree that keeps giving. It has actually been around and used for thousands of years. This amazing tree has long been cherished by many cultures around the world and used in various traditions. Native to the Americas, the Mayans believed that at the center of the universe grew a kapok tree. They used various parts of the tree for medicinal and healing purposes.  In Southeast Asia, particularly Java, where it is known as silk-cotton, kapok fiber has long been used in creating bedding as well as in making paper products. The wood from the tree is used to make boats and canoes. In India, this tree is revered for its giving nature and the fruit is collected and consumed as food. One kapok tree can provide between 600 to 650 fruits at a given time.

        Kapok remains a truly wondrous and ecological tree with a positive eco footprint. It promotes biodiversity and provides many gifts to humans and animals. Its beautiful flowers are pollinated by honeybees and bats; and, the tree itself serves as home to various animals. Kapok oil can be extracted from the seeds and made into an ointment or into a body soap. This oil is also effective in wound healing and aids in relieving rheumatism.  With all these various practical uses, it’s undeniable that kapok fiber and the tree that it comes from are both truly amazing gifts from nature.

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