The Ceiba: Tree of Life


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While wandering Cerro Blanco, we learned of the Ceiba (also known as Capoc or Kapoc) trees’ more intriguing properties and survival strategies. During its first thirty years of life, their bark is covered with an infinite number of spines, which protect the young tree. The trunk then loses the thorns and becomes so smooth that no mortal can climb one. The largest trees can reach 40 meters in height. Its spectacular trunk can bulge to over three meters in diameter.

In the dry season, a Ceiba can look like a giant’s arm emerging from a distant hill, trying to grab the sky with its branches. Those that lay their roots on a vertical cliff stand like heroes of the natural world. Their forms are dramatic, their loneliness legendary. Their lives are complex, as they store water during winter to survive the summer drought. Their leaves return in time to announce the arrival of the rainy season. Even before the rains begin, these stoic trees paint themselves green – an amazing sight. They come into bloom by July, producing a small velvety-red flower that will later seed, throwing off a fluffy yellow ball of cotton, which can float huge distances in the air. They say Guayaquileños stuffed pillows and mattresses with this fluff.

The kapok seems always to look out for the city, protecting its hills and forests from erosion and drought, filtering water into the soil during the most difficult months

It is perhaps the most emblematic tree in the Guayaquil landscape. They represent many of this city’s attributes, such as the ability to regenerate and become green after a tough winter, or the well-grounded identity, with those huge buttress roots that tightly grip the homeland, or the pride and dreams of its magnificent dimensions. Parrots visit them, caciques nest in them, bats sleep in them, among the many creatures that consume its healthy fruit and together help maintain the delicate ecosystem of the tropical dry forest.

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