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             Wednesday February 9, 2011 

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Ceiba at Sunset
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Ceiba at Sunset
This has got to be my favorite tree, the Ceiba. They are so majestic. I found this one while on a shoot at Spanish Lookout in the Cayo District.

Ceiba trees (Ceiba pentandra) are native to Central and South America, but are cultivated largely throughout tropical Africa and Southeast Asia as well. Mature ceiba trees can reach a show-stopping size of 9 feet in diameter. Trunks are very straight and often prickly with wide buttresses that provide support at the base.

The leaves are palmate compound, meaning they are arranged in the form of a hand with 5-9 leaflets, or fingers. In the dry season when the tree is leafless, branches blossom into sprays of white or pink flowers. Flowers bloom at night and are primarily bat-pollinated.

The best-known use of the tree comes from the cotton-like fiber harvested from the seed pods; the fiber was used to stuff pillows and life jackets before synthetic alternatives were created. However, the quick-growing timber is also used for plywood manufacturing, light-weight furniture, and dug-out canoes.

Ceibas are more than just beautiful and useful trees. Ya’axche Conservation Trust chose this symbol for its logo due in part to its strength and spiritual significance for the Maya. The tree represents the interconnectedness of all three worlds — the heavens, earth, and underworld.

Photograph by JC Cuellar              
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