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The Ceiba Tree

There is a large, beautiful ceiba tree (Ceiba pentandra (L.) Gaertn.) growing in a park on the northern coast of Vieques near the airport. It is reported to be over 300 years old. I was unable to find out anything about the origin or local significance of this tree, although everyone said we should go see it. What I do know is that Ceiba pentandra is a unique species that occurs in all three tropical regions of the world, i.e. neotropics, tropical Asia, tropical Africa, is culturally important to many ethnic groups, e.g. the Maya, and produces fluffy seed fibers ("kapok") that are used to stuff pillows and wrap around blowgun darts - among other things. 

Reader Comments (2)

Wow.. qué contrafuertes!!
Do you know the Maya story of the "Xtabay" who combed her hair behind the ceiba trunk's protuberance? (la pancita del tronco).
I definitively think it is from the American continent.
Great picture.. thx.

May 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersp

Purseglove (1968) says that the C. pentandra "originated in the American tropics" and that "the buoyant and water-resistant seeds were carried from the New World to Africa in remote times". There is evidence that kapok reached Java by the 10th century transported (by people) from Africa.

Don't know the Xtabay story. I am digging through my files for a photo of the Ceiba from Antigua...

May 3, 2011 | Registered Commenter[chuck]

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