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Ceiba pentandra and Ceiba occidentalis

Ceiba pentandra and Ceiba occidentalis of the family Malvaceae (previously was in Bombacaceae). Also called kapok and cotton tree, among some 280 other common names. This is a VERY light, but fairly strong, wood native to to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, northern South America, and tropical west Africa. It grows a seed pod that produces a cotton-like substance that is a mix of lignin and cellulose. I was first introduced to it as a Mystery Wood (discussed below) that seemed like a good wood to use for surf-boards because of the combination of strength and light weight.

my samples:
NOTE: these pics were all taken in very bright incandescent lighting ("soft white" at 2700K)
colors will vary under other lighting conditions

both sides of a sample plank of ceiba / Ceiba pentandra --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

small plank of ceiba

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above

HIGH GRIT END GRAIN CLOSEUP of the piece directly above

both sides of a piece of driftwood sent to me for identification. Even though the weight was just over 26 lbs/cuft which is heavy for ceiba, I have concluded none-the-less that it is ceiba. I figure the fact that it was in saltwater for some time may have infused minerals that added to the weight.

end grain and HIGH GRIT END GRAIN CLOSEUP of the piece directly above

both sides of a plank sent to me for identification. Although my fine sanding on the end grain did not expose the kind of noticeable rays I would have expected, nonetheless I still believe that this is Ceiba spp. There is a slight pink tint to these pics that was not in the wood itself.

end grain and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above

This plank was my introduction to ceiba. It was sent to me by Gregg Rosner who found it on a beach in Delaware. He was particularly fascinated by it because it is relatively strong and VERY light (18lbs/cuft) and since he makes surfboards, he wanted to know what it was. Some research pretty well convinced me it was Ceiba pentandra but since I had no other samples until recently, I left it on the Mystery Wood page (#166). Having obtained other samples AND having seen the end grain update on them, I am now quite confident that this is ceiba.

Gregg and I both agree that the large swath of discoloration is water stain, not part of the wood figure.

both sides of the plank


edge and face

end grain closeup

web pics:

micro-photographs showing the cell structure of Ceiba pentandra. I do not normally include this kind of pic from the Internet on this site but I make an exception here because I'm not finding many web pics of the wood and this cell structure nicely confirms what my own end grain fine sanding shows.

plank listed as ceiba / Ceiba pentandra


planks listed as white ceiba

coffin listed as being veneered with kapok