AskDefine | Define kapok

Dictionary Definition



1 from the kapok tree; used for stuffing and insulation [syn: silk cotton, vegetable silk]
2 massive tropical tree with deep ridges on its massive trunk and bearing large pods of seeds covered with silky floss; source of the silky kapok fiber [syn: ceiba tree, silk-cotton tree, white silk-cotton tree, Bombay ceiba, God tree, Ceiba pentandra]

User Contributed Dictionary



etyl ms kapuk.


  1. A silky fibre obtained from the silk-cotton tree used for insulation and stuffing for pillows, mattresses, etc.


Extensive Definition

Kapok (Ceiba pentandra) is a tropical tree of the order Malvales and the family Malvaceae (previously separated in the family Bombacaceae), native to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, northern South America, and (as the variety C. pentandra var. guineensis) to tropical west Africa. The word is also used for the fibre obtained from its seed pods. The tree is also known as the Java cotton, Java kapok, or ceiba. It is a sacred symbol in Maya mythology.
The tree grows to 60-70 m (200-230 ft) tall and has a very substantial trunk up to 3 m (10 ft) in diameter with buttresses. The trunk and many of the larger branches are densely crowded with very large, robust simple thorns. The leaves are compound of 5 to 9 leaflets, each up to 20 cm (8 in) and palm like. Adult trees produce several hundred 15 cm (6 in) seed pods. The pods contain seeds surrounded by a fluffy, yellowish fiber that is a mix of lignin and cellulose.


The fibre is light, very buoyant, resilient, highly flammable and resistant to water. The process of harvesting and separating the fibre is labour-intensive and manual. It cannot be spun but is used as an alternative to down as filling in mattresses, pillows, upholstery, teddy bears, zafus and for insulation. It was previously much used in life jackets and similar devices. The fibre has been largely replaced by man-made materials. The seeds produce an oil used locally in soap and that can be used as fertilizer.
In Southeast Asian countries kapok has larger seed pods and the fibre which is highly flammable is used as a fuel in fire pistons, in Thailand called taban fai ตะบันไฟ.
The commercial tree is most heavily cultivated in Asia, notably in Java (hence its nicknames), Philippines, and Malaysia, but also in South America.
A similar fibre is found in the Indian Bombax ceiba (also known as Bombax malabaricum or "silk-cotton tree"). It is termed Indian kapok and is darker in colour and less buoyant than the true variety. Another species, the Kapok Bush Aerva javanica, produces a material that is used for stuffing pillows.
This tree is the official national tree of Puerto Rico.

Ethnomedical uses

Ceiba pentandra bark decoction has been used as a diuretic, aphrodisiac, and to treat headache, as well as type II diabetes.
Ceiba pentandra is used as an additive to some versions of the hallucinogenic drink Ayahuasca.



Gallery of Ceiba pentandra & Birds/a Bat on it

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kapok in Catalan: Kapok
kapok in German: Kapokbaum
kapok in Spanish: Ceiba pentandra
kapok in Esperanto: Kapok-arbo
kapok in French: Kapok
kapok in Indonesian: Kapuk randu
kapok in Italian: Ceiba pentandra
kapok in Haitian: Mapou
kapok in Lingala: Buma
kapok in Dutch: Kapokboom
kapok in Japanese: カポック
kapok in Polish: Puchowiec pięciopręcikowy
kapok in Quechua: Lupuna
kapok in Russian: Хлопковое дерево
kapok in Slovenian: Kapokovec
kapok in Finnish: Kapokkipuu
kapok in Swedish: Kapok
kapok in Thai: นุ่น
kapok in Vietnamese: Bông gòn
kapok in Tonga (Tonga Islands): Vavae
kapok in Ukrainian: Бавовняне дерево

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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