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Silk Cotton Tree / Ceiba pentandra

Local Names
Kapok Tree, Fromager, Pochota, Yaxché, Bonga, Ceiba de lana, Sumaúma, Toborochi.
Distribution & Tree
The ceiba is widely distributed not only in tropical America but also in West Africa and southeast Asia (where it is known as kapok). Ceibas can be found in various types of moist evergreen and deciduous forests, as well as in dry forests and gallery forests. As a pioneer species, it mostly occurs in secondary forests. A very large tree to 60 meters with a straight, cylindrical trunk with diameters reaching 182 cm over large buttresses. The trees produce several hundred 15 cm pods with seeds surrounded by a fluffy, yellowish fiber that is a mix of lignin and cellulose. It was declared the national tree of Guatemala in 1955.
Wood Appearance
Wood is whitish, pale brown, or pinkish brown, often with yellowish or grayish streaks. Sapwood and heartwood not clearly demarcated. The texture is coarse, the grain interlocked, and the luster low.
Processing Properties
Difficult to saw cleanly and to dress smoothly, cut surfaces tend to be woolly, tools must be kept sharp for best results. Machining characteristics include excellent planing and sanding and resistance to splitting when screwed. Shapes and bores poorly but mortises well. Poor nail and screw holding properties. Peels to give good veneers. Seasons rapidly without marked distortion.
Strength & Durability
Nondurable to white-rot fungus attack but durable to very durable when exposed to brown rot. Susceptible to attack by insects, requiring rapid harvest and conversion to prevent deterioration, liable to powder-post beetle attack, prone to stain. The wood is readily treatable and highly permeable.
Wood Uses
Slabs, plywood, blockboard, corestock for veneers, boxes and crates, joinery, boxes/crates, cabinetry and furniture components as well as rafts, canoes, model planes, and utensils.
Ecological & Social Importance

Ceiba is likely a Taino word. The Spanish Conquistadors were impressed by the size of the canoes that the native people in the West Indies and coastal Central and South America made from the ceiba tree. Canoes were hollowed out of tree trunks in a single piece and the largest could carry over 100 men. In Alta Verapaz, the Maya, pre- and post-Conquest, held their councils under the ceiba. The flowers are an important source of nectar and pollen for honey bees and bats, the latter being the primary pollinators of the night-blooming flowers. The seed pod’s fiber is used as an alternative to down as filling in mattresses, pillows, upholstery, and stuffed toys. In Central America, the bark is said to be a diuretic and to stimulate breast milk production and the flowers thought to be a remedy for dizziness and headaches.

Reference Species
Technical CharacteristicsCeibaEastern White PineEastern Cotton Wood
Janka Hardnesskgf127172195
Bending Stiffness (Modulus of Elasticity)GPa4.18.69.5
Bending Strength (Modulus of Rupture)MPa40.059.358.6
Crushing StrengthMPa21.733.133.9
Shrinkage, Radial%2.8%2.1%3.9%
Shrinkage, Tangential%6.4%6.1%9.2%
Shrinkage, Volumetric%10.4%8.2%13.9%
T/R Ratio2.32.92.4
Values determined at 12% humidity - Provided for reference only







Values are for reference only and cannot be guaranteed. Wood is a natural material and physical and mechanical properties may vary depending on age, genetics, and other factors. We encourage customers to consult the references provided in the bibliography. For further explanations of wood’s key technical characteristics, an excellent resource is the Wood Database with articles on Density (average dried weight); Janka hardness; Elastic Modulus; Rupture Modulus; Crushing Strength; Radial, Tangential and Volumetric Shrinkage.

ReferencesView Source
"Guía de Especies Forestales de Nicaragua." Orgut Consulting AB. MARENA/INAFOR. 2002
"Huimba Negra - Guía de Procesamiento Industrial." WWF.
Bibliography on Ceiba Pentandra. Maya Ethnobotany.
Bonga. Laboratorio de Productos Forestales. Universidad Nacional de Colombia. 2018.
Catálogo virtual de flora del Valle de Aburrá, Universidad EIA
Ceiba pentandra. Cordero, J. Boshier, D. "Arboles de Centroamerica: Un manual para extensionistas." Oxford/Catie. 2003
Ceiba pentandra. Plant description. In Rio Dulce.
Ceiba pentandra. Wood Technology Transfer Fact Sheets. Forest Products Laboratory. USDA Forest Service.
Ceiba. "Catalogo de Arboles." Red de Viveros de Biodiversidad (México).
Ceiba. ITTO Lesser Known Species.
Chinea-Rivera, J.D. “Ceiba pentandra (L.) Gaertn. Ceiba, Kapok, silk cotton tree. Bombacaceae. Bombax family.” USDA Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station, Institute of Tropical Forestry; 4 p. (SO-ITF-SM; 29). 1990.
Cojoba arborea. Vozzo, J.A. (ed) "Manual de Semillas de Arboles Tropicales." 2010.
Cordero, J. Boshier, D. "Arboles de Centroamerica: Un manual para extensionistas." Oxford/Catie. 2003
Gérard, J. Guibal, D. et al. "Tropical Timber Atlas: Technological characteristics and uses." ITTO. Éditions Quæ, 2017.
Laboratorio de Ecologia de Poblaciones y Comunidades Tropicales, UNAM
Longwood, F. "Puerto Rican Woods: Their Machining, Seasoning and Related Characteristics." Agriculture Handbook No. 205. USDA.
Silk Cotton Tree. Caribbean Archaeology Program. Florida Museum.
Silva Guzmán, José Antonio. 2008. Fichas técnicas sobre características y usos de maderas comercializadas en México. Tomo II. Comisión Nacional Forestal (CONAFOR). Guadalajara, Jalisco. México 8.
Standley, PC. Williams, LO. Gibson, DN. "Flora of Guatemala." Volume 24. Field Museum of Natural History. 1974.
Vázquez-Yanes, C., A. I. Batis Muñoz, M. I. Alcocer Silva, M. Gual Díaz y C. Sánchez Dirzo. 1999. Árboles y arbustos potencialmente valiosos para la restauración ecológica y la reforestación. Reporte técnico del proyecto J084. CONABIO - Instituto de Ecología, UNAM.
Vester, H., Navarro-Martínez, A. "Fichas Ecológicas arboles maderables de Quintana Roo." Forest Ecology And Management, Tropical Forest Ecology. 2007.
World Agroforestry Centre database