The Kapok Tree

Kapok Tree | Key WestThe Kapok Tree is another of Key Wests most photographed trees. It is a tropical tree, native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, northern South America, and tropical west Africa. The tree is also known as the Java cotton. It is a sacred symbol in Mayan mythology. The tree grows to 130 feet tall and has a very substantial trunk up to 3 m in diameter with buttresses. The leaves are compound of 5 to 9 leaflets, each up to 20 cm and palm like. Adult trees produce several hundred seed pods. Kapok Tree TrunkThe pods contain seeds that produce an oil used locally in soap and that can be used as fertilizer. The seeds are surrounded by a fluffy, yellowish fiber that is light, very buoyant, resilient and resistant to water. The fiber was previously used in life jackets.