Bees for Development respects your right to privacy so the only web cookies this website deploys are those which are strictly necessary for its correct operation and which enhance the experience of our site visitors – no personally identifiable information is collected. If you continue to browse our website we will assume that you are happy with our policy and to receive cookies from our website. If you choose to follow a link to third-party website please be aware that other organisations may have different cookie deployment policies from our own. You can change your cookie preferences in your web browser at any time.
The specialist international beekeeping organisation
Apicultural value A savanna honey bee plant with multiple uses Bombax costatum produces an abundant supply of nectar and is recommended for honey production.Family BombacaceaeCommon names English Kapok tree red-flowered silk cotton tree French Kapokier Hausa Gurjiya Fulfulde Jooyehi Joohi Mandinka Bunkungo Wolof KattupaDistribution West Africa: widespread in savanna zones from Senegal to Central African RepublicFlowering period November to FebruaryDescription Bombax costatum is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 25 m high. However in the Sahel it rarely reaches over 6 m. The crown structure of young trees is storeyed becoming irregular and sturdy in older trees. Bark thick grey brown and corky with typical conical stout sharp-pointed spines on the stem and branches. Leaves are compound digitate with 5-7 leaflets 8-15 cm long on long petioles. Leaflets are partly ovate partly acuminate at both ends with 8-10 pairs of lateral nerves. Flowers are 5-6 cm long and solitary deep red orange or yellow tulip-shaped on long glabrous peduncles and are calyx cup-shaped. Fruit is a dark brown ellipsoidal capsule composed of five valves dehiscent 8-16 cm long and 3-6 cm wide of variable shapes. The valves are furrowed for about one third the distance from the top to the middle. The fruit contains a white floss - kapok - and several small seeds. Habitat Bombax costatum grows in savannas and dry woodlands. It does well on cropland near settlements and on stony soils. Cultural notes Direct seeding is a preferred propagation mode however wildlings may also be used. The seedlings are difficult to plant in spite of their vigorous rooting ability. Natural regeneration is easy and abundant when sufficiently protected against fire and livestock.Association with bees Bombax costatum flowers during the major dearth period. This underscores its importance in maintaining honey bee colonies since beekeepers do not need to feed their colonies at all. The end of its flowering period overlaps with the beginning of the flowering of other important bee forage plants including Parkia biglobosa and Vitellaria paradoxa with which it is often associated. Details on the seasons and nectar flow in this region may be found in Dukku 2003.Honey bees forage for nectar on this tree throughout the day. Other foragers include ants birds flies stingless bees Trigona spp and wasps. Honey bees have been observed foraging on fallen flowers.Other uses Bombax costatum is used as a shade and ornamental tree on farms and compounds. The kapok from the fruit is used in filling mattresses and pillows. The timber is used in making canoes stools and serving bowls. The calyx is used in making soups and the leaves are a good fodder for livestock. The kapok tree is a source of herbal medicine in many communities.References ANON 2010 AgroForestryTree Database World Agroforestry Centre website DUKKU U.H. 2003 Acacia ataxacantha: a nectar plant for honey bees between two dearth periods in the Sudan Savanna of Northern Nigeria. Bee World 84 1: 32-34. DUKKU U.H. 2010a Parkia biglobosa: an important honey bee forage in the Savanna. Bee World 87 2: 28-29. DUKKU U.H. 2010b Vitellaria paradoxa: an important nectar plant in the Savanna. Bee World 87 3: 59-60.Usman Dukku has been studying honey bees and beekeeping in Nigeria since 1984. He teaches undergraduate students and trains beekeepers.