is for Kapok Tree
Kapok trees, officially Ceiba Pentandra, are also known as Silk Cotton trees and are indigenous to the tropical Americas and West Africa.
They are spectacular trees, taking up to a century to reach full size, which can be up to 250 feet, with trunks nearing 10 ft diameter and with extensive buttress roots. Buttress roots sometimes extend from 50 feet up the trunk of the tree extending outwards up to 65 feet, and then continuing below ground for another 165 feet.
The trunk and many of the larger branches often contain large thorns.
The reason they’re known as Kapoks/Cotton Silk trees is that the produce hundreds of 6 inch pods which contain seeds that are surrounded by fluffy white fiber. The fiber is light, buoyant, and water resistant. Although it was used to make clothing at one time, it’s not easy to spin so instead it’s used more often as a down alternative filling.
The seeds can be pressed to produce a vegetable oil; and the wood of the tree was used to create dugout canoes.
The trees themselves support a variety of wild life – birds, small mammals and reptiles and insects. They support orchids and bromeliads; and because the trees are so large pools of water collect both in the crevices of the tree and in the bromeliads they host. These pools in turn act as frog breeding grounds.
The Kapok is the most sacred tree in the Mayan culture, and is indeed considered by many cultures to be sacred, magical, and the dwelling place of spirits.
Speaking of sacred trees, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention I am over-the-treetops in love with Tara Books, a collective of artists, writers and designers who produce handmade books in India. The very first book I purchased from them years ago was The Night Life of Trees and I still swoon over it. The art, done by members of Gond Tribe, is silk screened onto black handmade paper, and each tree is accompanied by a short folk tale. A book with so many things I love – folk tales, trees, gorgeous art, and handmade paper!
Are there any trees you consider sacred? Have a tree book to recommend I add to my reading list? Do tell – you know I love to hear.