Friday, April 3, 2009

Remember Kapok?

Wandering around the streets of Key West recently, I came across this magnificent tree. I wasn't sure what it was at first, but the huge buttresses at the base of the trunk had me curious. It turns out to be a Kapok tree. Now if you're old enough, you'll remember wearing life jackets filled with the soft material from these trees. If you're like me, you'll also remember them being uncomfortable and perhaps even cutting one open to expose the source of the discomfort, all wrapped up in little packages, which then were cut open and spread around the house in an impromptu science exploration. Some called it a mess, but the science held. I remembered the word 'kapok'.

I understand the fluffy material comes from the tree's seed packets. A little search on the web suggested the material is still being used here and there in the life jacket industry as a replacement for the foam materials more commonly used.


bonnie said...

I can't remember if I remember kapok, or if I remember being told about the uses of kapok on an elementary-school field trip to the Foster Botanical Garden.

Quite possibly both, though.

Anonymous said...

Saw Kapok trees in the jungle in Ecuador, and remember the life jackets. Strangely though I just saw a picture of someone with a kapok seed looking at the fibres, in the last week. It was either on one of my sidebar blogs or a friend's Facebook.

Silbs said...

I do remember Kapok. When I first looked, I thought it was a Banyan tree. Do you happen to know if they are related?

DaveO said...

I just like the use of the phrase 'life jacket' rather than the aggravating acronym, pfd. If we keep inventing acronyms instead of describing things for what they actually are, we will be one bunch of DSOB's.