- Agriculture, Forestry & Soils
- Field crops, grasses, plant fibers, spices, tree crops, herbs
- Kapok tree
Strausbaugh, Perry D. Department of Botany, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Core, Earl L. Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Last reviewed:January 2020
- Related Primary Literature
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A tropical tree, Ceiba pentandra, of the family Malvaceae (formerly Bombacaceae) that produces pods that contain seeds covered with a silky, cottony fiber. The kapok tree is a large tree, often reaching 45–60 m (150–200 ft) in height. It occurs in the American tropics, including the Amazon, and has been introduced into Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and West Africa. The kapok tree has a bizarre growth habit and produces pods that contain seeds covered with silky hairs called silk cotton (see illustration); hence, the tree is also called the silk cotton tree. The silk cotton (also termed Java cotton) is the commercial kapok used for stuffing cushions, mattresses, and pillows. Kapok has a low specific gravity and is impervious to water; as such; it is an excellent material for filling life preservers. Kapok oil is a yellow-green oil that is derived by pressing seeds of the kapok tree. The oil has a pleasant aroma and taste; is soluble in alcohol, ether, and chloroform; and is used in edible oils and soap stock. See also: Fiber crops; Malvales; Natural fiber; Seed
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