Non Conventional Fibres Association

Kapok Fibers

Botanical information

  • The scientific name of kapok is Ceiba Pentandra, belonging to the Malvaceae family.
  • In different regions, kapok is also called “cotton silk,” “samauma,” “java cotton,” or “java kapok.”
  • The fibre which appears like cotton when in raw form and has a soft feel like silk should be the kapok fibre.
  • Kapok is a natural textile fibre obtained from the kapok tree’s seeds, which appear on the branches.
  • Indonesia and Thailand are some of the top kapok exporters around the world.

Agroclimatic Conditions for Cultivation

  • Regions with tropical or sub-tropical climates are the preferred places to grow the kapok tree.
  • These trees particularly grow at an altitude which is less than 1000 feet from the sea level.
  • The kapok tree requires porous volcanic soil, which has good drainage.
  • These are the tallest type of tropical trees, which can grow up to 230 feet (70m).
  • Due to its fast growth, it is used for reforestation.
  • The fruits of the tree which carry the kapok fibres are oblong egg-shaped pouches.
  • This raw material present inside the pods is light, fluffy, lustrous, and light yellow to light brown.
  • Under favourable conditions, a tree may produce 330-400 fruits per year, thus gaining 15-18 kg of fibre and 30kg of seeds per year.

Table 1. Physical & mechanical properties and chemical composition of areca nut fibres 

Physical & Mechanical Characteristics

Fibre Length

8-32 mm


0.4-0.7 d


1.4-1.74 g/d

Elongation at Break


Chemical composition








Features of the fibres

  • The kapok fibres depict a hydrophobic nature as it consists of a waxy surface and dries quickly if they get wet.
  • It has excellent buoyancy; 1 kg of kapok fibres can keep a 35 kg load afloat.
  • These fibres are environmentally friendly as they are anti-bacterial, non-toxic, non-allergic, odourless, and rot resistant.
  • They can also function as a good insulator for heat, sound, and air due to the air trapped inside the fibre structure.
  • It can be a viable alternative to cotton as it is abundantly available in nature, cost-effective, and renewable.
  • It is an organic and biodegradable seed fibre which is naturally buoyant.

Typical uses

  • Kapok fibres are mainly used as a filler in mattresses and as stuffings in pillows and toys.
  • Industries like paper, textile, aviation, and upholstery use these fibres on a large scale.
  • The fruit, leaves, oil, and young shoots of kapok are used as food and medicines.
  • Also, it is often considered a sacred or symbolic tree in Indigenous cultures; its various parts are used in traditional medicine.
  • These fibres are natural reinforcing and filling materials in polymer composites.