Kapok is the national tree of Puerto Rico and Guatemala. The botanical name of Kapok is Ceiba Pentandra but it is commonly known as Java Cotton because of the cotton fiber that is produced in seed pods of the tree. Kapok is also one of the largest trees found in tropical regions of Latin America and Mexico.
Kapok can grow up to 70 meters in height with a straight trunk. It also produced large branches when it is grown fully so it can house many animals and birds in it. The interesting fact about Kapok is that it can live for more than 500 years. Its flowers open at night, and are pollinated by bats. The trunk of Kapok tree especially of the younger Kapoks, are covered with thorns that protect them from animals.
The cotton-like fiber of Kapok is used as filler in stuffed toys, pillows and upholstery. The oil extracted from Kapok seeds is used in cosmetics.
The Ceiba town of Puerto Rico is also named after this tree. Spanish people call it Aroba. In 1898, the Spanish Army in Cuba surrendered to the United States under a Ceiba, which was named the Tree of Peace (Arbol de la Paz), outside of Santiago de Cuba. Kapok trees are also cultivated in plantations in Asia. A close cousin of Kapok and more popular species of the family is Bombax Ceiba which can be seen widely in most tropical regions of the world. The largest known Kapok stands erected at Bangalore in India.