The ceiba tree

The ceiba tree

The Ceiba tree, also called kapok tree, is an impressive sight with its trunk full of thorns and a growth rate of 2 to 4 meters per year. Those thorns allow the tree to protect itself from all kinds of animals. The tree is one of the forest giants of the tropical rainforest and grows up to 70 meters tall. The thickest Ceiba tree ever measured is in Brazil with a circumference of more than 30 meters. The tree rises so high above the rest of the rainforest that its branches provide another habitat for a variety of plants that need more sunlight. In commercial coffee and cocoa plantations, the Ceiba is used to create shade.


Moreover, the tree has quite a history, as it has existed since before the continental drift so we can find it from Mexico to South America, as well as in West Africa and pieces of Asia. The tree has branches only at the top, where they spread out like an umbrella. During the flowering season, moths and bats are attracted to its abundant nectar production. For example, the tree makes up to 10 liters of nectar per night! In Cambodia, they have manipulated the tree so that it has low branches and a smooth trunk. They use the fibers in the fruit, also called silk cotton, as padding for mattresses, pillows and life jackets, among other things. The bark, leaves and stems are also used medicinally to treat acne, rashes, toothaches, rheumatism and burns. Western science is also beginning to show interest in the tree and research its medicinal properties. In addition, the seeds can be used as a biofuel.

Spiritual value

Not surprisingly, people throughout the ages have looked at this tree with admiration. For the Maya, for example, this tree was of great spiritual value, you can find the ‘ya’ax’che’ in many Maya artworks. For the Maya, this tree was the connection between the 3 levels: the underworld, our world and the different levels of heaven. Even more, they believed that the tree held up the sky with its branches. The tree was also a good indicator of favorable habitat, since they only grow near good water sources.

The indigenous inhabitants of Costa Rica also place great spiritual value on this tree. Unfortunately, this is much less well documented. But the story goes that they placed their loved ones who had recently died at the base of the tree by the roots, offering the soul a stairway to heaven.

In the reserve

Also in the reserve of Adopt Rainforest are some enormous Ceiba trees. Any tourist or student who comes into contact with a Ceiba tree for the first time is silent for a few seconds and stands staring upward in wonder. But even for the guides, it remains a magical moment to encounter such an impressive forest giant in the middle of the jungle.

The thickest Ceiba in Costa Rica has a circumference of 22.55 m and is called Arbol de la Paz, the tree of peace. It stands in Volcan Tenorio National Park.

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