Kapok, cotton tree

It grows wild in the tropics of America and West Africa (probably naturalized). Cultivated in the tropics of both hemispheres. Indonesia is the main producer of kapok.

Tall trees (up to 27 m) with a very thick trunk, flat “plank” roots, palmately dissected leaves and beautiful large flowers. The fruit is a large woody box, opening with 5 valves, with numerous seeds, the inner walls of the valve are covered with numerous short, shiny hairs, similar to cotton (in cotton, the hairs sit on the seeds). Hairs called “kapok” are widely used instead of cotton for warm clothes and as padding material, especially for life belts and buoys, because they do not get wet in water.

Fatty oil (up to 25%) is obtained from the seeds – Oleum Kapok, replacing cotton; it also belongs to the semi-drying oils, since it contains a lot of triglycerides of linoleic acid (40-45%).

Similarly, Bombax ceiba L. is used, a kapok bombak, common in Southeast Asia (from the Himalayas to New Guinea) and widely cultivated in India, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Malacca.

The plant contains liquid fats (oils).


Fats consist almost entirely of triglycerides of high molecular weight fatty acids. They are accompanied by pigments, sterols, vitamins and some other fat-soluble substances.

The fatty acids that make up triglycerides can be saturated or unsaturated. Most often, triglycerides contain the fatty acids listed in the table.

Fats are not individual substances – they are mixtures of triglycerides. In the formation of fats, the law of maximum heterogeneity prevails – more than 1300 currently known fats are formed by “multi-acid” triglycerides, and fatty acids of different composition (for example, stearinodiolein, palmitinooleinolinolein, etc.). Fats, consisting of “one-acid” triglycerides, are relatively rare in nature (olive oil is triolein, castor oil is triricinolein).

The properties of fats are determined mainly by the composition of fatty acids and their quantitative ratio. Saturated fatty acids form triglycerides of a dense consistency (at traditional temperature), and the density increases with the increase in the number of carbon atoms in the acid (see table). Unsaturated fatty acids form liquid triglycerides.


Liquid fats (oils), spread with a thin layer, can remain liquid (non-drying fatty oils) or, oxidized, gradually turn into a resinous film (drying – a dense film and semi-drying – a soft film). Fatty oils dominated by oleic acid triglycerides are non-drying. The more linoleic and linolenic acids in oils, the more they are prone to drying out, as can be judged by the iodine number (the number of grams of iodine that can join 100 g of fat at the place of double bonds of unsaturated acids). Approximate limits of iodine numbers: non-drying 80-100, semi-drying 100-140, drying oils 140-200.

Most vegetable fatty oils are obtained by pressing or extracting raw materials with volatile solvents. Freshly obtained (“raw”) fats are purified (refined).

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