Bombax buonopozense (PROTA)
|Geographic coverage Africa|
|Geographic coverage World|
|Carbohydrate / starch|
|Essential oil / exudate|
|Forage / feed|
Bombax buonopozense P.Beauv.
- Protologue: Fl. Owar. 2: 42. t. 83 (1816).
- Family: Bombacaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
- Chromosome number: 2n = c. 96
- Bombax reflexum Sprague (1906),
- Bombax flammeum Ulbr. (1913).
- Gold Coast bombax, West African bombax, wild kapok, red silk cotton tree, wild silk cotton tree (En).
- Kapokier de Buonopozo, fromager de Buonopozo (Fr).
- Mafumeira africana, mafumeira encarnada, poilão encarnado, poilão ferro (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Bombax buonopozense is distributed from Guinea eastward to Uganda and southward to Angola.
The seed-floss is used for stuffing mattresses and cushions. Sheets of bark have been used as roofing material for small huts.
The wood is used for making dug-out canoes, troughs, quivers, stools and domestic appliances. It is also suitable for light construction, light flooring, interior trim, sporting goods, agricultural implements, boxes, modelling, carvings, toys, turnery, insulation, woodwool, plywood, hardboard and particle board. The spines have been carved into pieces for the game of checkers or other small objects, such as letters, used for embossing. A reddish-brown dye has been obtained from the bark. The bark also yields a gum-exudate.
The young fruits, flowers and fresh or dried leaves are eaten as vegetables and in sauces. The dried calyx mixed with bark or spines was formerly chewed as a substitute of kola nut or to clean teeth. In Sierra Leone the young fruits with the calyx attached are used as tops. The seeds yield an edible oil. The fresh leaves are a fodder for goats. The flowers are an important source of food for honeybees. Bombax buonopozense is occasionally planted as an ornamental avenue tree.
The bark, flowers and leaves have emollient properties and in traditional medicine in Côte d’Ivoire the bark is pulped and made into plasters to treat ringworm and to clean hairy leather. The powdered bark with spines enters into medicines for the treatment of various skin diseases and river blindness. In Ghana a decoction of the stem bark is drunk against malaria, while in Sierra Leone an infusion in cold water is rubbed on the head or drunk against dizziness. The bark also enters into preparations applied to treat cardiac and menstrual problems, and as a galactagogue. The stem bark has been used in Nupeland in north-central Nigeria to treat sleeping sickness. Bark decoctions are drunk or used in a bath against fever.
Production and international trade
The fruit floss was formerly exported from West Africa to Europe as a substitute of kapok from Ceiba pentandra (L.) Gaertn. Before the Second World War about 1000 t of fibre from Bombax spp. were exported annually. Nowadays it is only used and traded locally. The flowers, leaves and wood are also only used locally.
Bombax fibre cannot be spun and for most purposes kapok fibre from Ceiba pentandra is superior to that of Bombax species.
The heartwood is yellowish brown to pinkish brown, darkening on exposure; it is not clearly demarcated from the greyish white sapwood. The grain is straight or interlocked; texture coarse. The wood is lightweight and soft, but strong. It dries quickly, but is subject to warping if not dried properly. The wood is easy to work with machine and hand tools, but sharp-edged tools must be used to avoid woolly surfaces. Sanding and scraping must be done carefully. The wood nails well, but holding properties are poor. It glues and finishes well. The wood is not durable and easily attacked by insects and fungi. The sapwood is permeable to impregnation with preservatives, the heartwood is moderately resistant.
Per 100 g edible portion the raw leaves contain: water 80.0 g, energy 260 kJ (62 kcal), protein 3.4 g, fat 0.6 g, total carbohydrate (including fibre) 14.5 g, fibre 3.5 g, Ca 276 mg, P 32 mg. The raw calyces contain per 100 g edible portion: water 82.0 g, energy 268 kJ (64 kcal), protein 1.2 g, fat 0.8 g, total carbohydrate (including fibre) 14.8 g, fibre 2.4 g, Ca 174 mg, P 27 mg. The dried calyces contain per 100 g edible portion: water 10.9 g, energy 1306 kJ (312 kcal), protein 3.2 g, fat 3.8 g, total carbohydrate (including fibre) 76.3 g, Ca 741 mg. The dried seeds contain per 100 g edible portion: water 6.0 g, energy 1947 kJ (465 kcal), protein 19.3 g, fat 27.5 g, total carbohydrate (including fibre) 41.3 g, fibre 12.2 g, Ca 348 mg, P 676 mg (Leung, Busson & Jardin, 1968).
Methanol extracts of the stem-bark have shown in-vivo antitrypanosomal activity in mice. The treatment removed the parasites from the bloodstream in 7 days. Methanol extracts of the leaves have shown antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic effects in rats and mice. Methanolic and to a lesser extent hexane extracts of the flowers showed antibiotic activity against Aspergillus niger, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
Adulterations and substitutes
Bombax costatum Pellegr. & Vuillet is used for similar purposes as Bombax buonopozense. The fruit floss of the true kapok tree, Ceiba pentandra, is superior to that of Bombax buonopozense and other Bombax species.
Large tree up to 40 m tall; bole straight, cylindrical, branchless for 18–24 m, up to 75(–150) cm in diameter, with wing-shaped buttresses up to 6 m high; outer bark corky, greyish brown, with conical spines up to 3 cm long, inner bark dark pink; branches in whorls, glabrous. Leaves palmately compound with 5–9 leaflets; stipules narrowly lanceolate, soon falling; petiole 22–24 cm long, petiolules absent or up to 2 cm long; leaflets oblong-obovate, 6–23 cm × 3–7.5 cm, apex long acuminate, both surfaces glabrous or lower surface puberulous, midvein prominent on both surfaces, lateral veins in 10–25 pairs, slightly prominent. Flowers solitary or 2–6 together in small axillary cymes on short branches; pedicel up to 2.5 cm long; calyx cup-shaped, 1–1.5 cm × 2.5–4.5 cm, 5-lobed; petals 5, oblong to oblong-lanceolate, 5.5–9.5 cm × 2.5–3.5 cm, red; staminal tube 7–8 mm long, stamens c. 180, in outer circle in 5 bundles of c. 30, in inner circle in 5 pairs; ovary superior, conical, 5.5–8 mm long, 5-ribbed, style 4–5 cm long, stigma 5-lobed. Fruit an oblong capsule 8–20 cm × 3.5–8 cm, 5-ridged to 5-angular, glabrous, dark brown to black, loculicidal, many seeded. Seeds pear-shaped, 5–8 mm in diameter, brown, embedded in abundant, white, silky floss. Seedling with epigeal germination; hypocotyl c. 6.5 cm long; cotyledons ovate-cordate; first leaves 3-foliolate.
Other botanical information
Bombax is a pantropical genus comprising 8 species: 2 in Africa, 5 in Asia, and 1 from Asia to the Solomon Islands. Formerly, Bombax had a much wider circumscription. Reports of Bombax buonopozense in Mozambique mostly refer to Rhodognaphalon schumannianum A.Robyns.
Wood-anatomical description (IAWA hardwood codes):
Growth rings: 2: growth ring boundaries indistinct or absent. Vessels: 5: wood diffuse-porous; 13: simple perforation plates; 22: intervessel pits alternate; 23: shape of alternate pits polygonal; 26: intervessel pits medium (7–10 μm); 27: intervessel pits large (≥ 10 μm); 31: vessel-ray pits with much reduced borders to apparently simple: pits rounded or angular; 32: vessel-ray pits with much reduced borders to apparently simple: pits horizontal (scalariform, gash-like) to vertical (palisade); 43: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina ≥ 200 μm; 46: ≤ 5 vessels per square millimetre; (47: 5–20 vessels per square millimetre). Tracheids and fibres: 61: fibres with simple to minutely bordered pits; 66: non-septate fibres present; 69: fibres thin- to thick-walled. Axial parenchyma: 77: axial parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates; 79: axial parenchyma vasicentric; 86: axial parenchyma in narrow bands or lines up to three cells wide; (88: axial parenchyma scalariform); 92: four (3–4) cells per parenchyma strand; 93: eight (5–8) cells per parenchyma strand. Rays: 98: larger rays commonly 4- to 10-seriate; (102: ray height > 1 mm); 104: all ray cells procumbent; 106: body ray cells procumbent with one row of upright and/or square marginal cells; 107: body ray cells procumbent with mostly 2–4 rows of upright and/or square marginal cells; 110: sheath cells present; 114: ≤ 4 rays per mm; 115: 4–12 rays per mm. Storied structure: 120: axial parenchyma and/or vessel elements storied. Secretory elements and cambial variants: 131: intercellular canals of traumatic origin. Mineral inclusions: 136: prismatic crystals present; 137: prismatic crystals in upright and/or square ray cells; 141: prismatic crystals in non-chambered axial parenchyma cells.
Growth and development
Seedlings grow rapidly, up to 3 m in the first 2 years. In Ghana Bombax buonopozense loses its leaves during the dry season from December to March. It flowers during the dry season, mainly in December and January, and fruits mature in ( February–)March–May(–June). In Central Africa flowering is probably year-round. Fruiting begins when trees are 6–7 years old. Fruits open into 5 segments, often when still on the tree and the seeds are dispersed by wind.
Bombax buonopozense occurs throughout the dense forests of the upper and lower Guinean zone, typically at low elevations, but is reported from elevations up to 1200 m above sea-level. It occurs in primary rainforest, secondary forest, gallery forest and swamp forest, extending into, but much rarer, in wooded savanna, coastal thicket and grasslands, for instance in Ghana. In the Sudanian and Sahelian zones of West Africa it is replaced by Bombax costatum.
Propagation and planting
Direct sowing and transplanting of potted seedlings are possible. Before sowing, the kapok adhering to the seed should be removed. The 1000-seed weight is about 70 g. Seed can be stored in a cool and dry place. Germination normally takes 8–12 days in West Africa. Propagation with cuttings is also possible.
Although it has been proposed in the past to test Bombax buonopozense for the commercial production of kapok, it mainly grows wild, except for occasional planting as an avenue tree. It is suitable as an agroforestry tree, for instance for staking yams.
Diseases and pests
Bombax buonopozense is an alternative host of cacao swollen shoot virus (CSSV).
As the species is widespread, common and not heavily exploited, Bombax buonopozense is not in danger of genetic erosion.
Bombax buonopozense is likely to remain a fibre, food, timber and medicinal tree of local importance. Very little information is available on the properties of the fibre.
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Sources of illustration
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- L.P.A. Oyen, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Correct citation of this article
Oyen, L.P.A., 2011. Bombax buonopozense P.Beauv. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp>.
Accessed 2 July 2022.
- See the Prota4U database.