One of the most eye catching plants you can see in Collectors Corner, Keysborough (outer suburb of Melbourne) is this spiky tree. It is a Ceiba tree or also known as Silk Cotton tree, Silk Floss tree or Kapok tree. Apparently this native South American tree consists of more than ten species, like for examples: Ceiba acuminata, insignis, pentandra, rosea, speciosa etc. Some of the species like Ceiba pentandra (Kapok Tree) has become a common tree grown in Asia.
My memory is coming back to a place where I was born and raised in Central Java, Indonesia. The spiky trunk reminds me of Kapok Randu tree, one of the Ceiba species (pentrandra). When I was a child, there was a kapok tree in our family property in the outer part of Solo (Surakarta). I remember the distinctive spikes on the main trunk of the tree. It is said that these spikes can drop off when the tree is mature, so there is a chance that the trunk of a mature tree will have no thorns at all. At that time, it was a very common sight to see these tall trees grown around the neighbourhood. You could tell that the tall trees were kapok by the shape and by the large and almost mature fruits on the bare branches when many leaves had fallen off.
Another fond memory of a kapok tree, is the cottony fibres inside the fruit capsules that was commonly used to fill our mattresses. When our mattress was already flat, my mother would buy kapok fibres to fill the new mattress. I used to help the few women hired to clean the kapok fibres by getting rid of the black and hard seeds, a slightly larger than black peppers. We had to go through the layers of fibres to find the seeds. After the kapok fibres were clean, the women would fill the mattress and pillow casings. It was very exiting to see our hair, face and body looked fluffy, covered with the off-white fibre. The whole room was also full of the white fluffs, mum would complain and remind us to be more gentle to handle the fibres as they were very fine and light. Beside the water proof fibres being a useful filling material for mattresses, cushions, pillows and soft toys; kapok seeds are used to make oil for making soap.
I like the look of the Ceiba tree in the Collectors Corner. I have seen this tree since the first time I went to Garden World back in the 1980s. It is Ceiba speciosa and the flowers are very pretty, pink colour similar look to Lilium. This tropical tree in Collectors corner is not growing as big and tall as it is supposed to be, but the dwarf look makes it more beautiful and interesting. I have never seen this tree have flowers or fruits though.