Family: Bombacaceae

Latin name: Ochroma spp.

Vernacular name: Topa, topa de altura, balsa

Ethnobotany
A very soft, buoyant wood, used for rafts and floating timber. Balsa is used locally for crafts and worldwide. The small seeds are dispersed in large wads of kapok, a cotton-like substance, which is used for stuffing pillows, mattresses, and toys. Buoys for fish traps are made from the wood. Topa growing in uplands has harder wood that is more durable for buoys. The bark is flexible and easily strips off the trunk for use as strapping and to wrap bundles. Women will grind the very soft charcoal of topa into a powder and drink this in water or use in baths to help them recover after they have given birth.

Agroforestry
This tree can grow to be large and usually regenerates in the most fertile parts of fields, or on patches of bare soil. It has a light canopy, grows up very quickly and is ready for multiple uses after about two years, which allows it to be conveniently removed from the agroforestry system before it interferes with other components. Meanwhile, more of the trees may regenerate, continually stocking the chacra with this. Farmers can dig up seedlings and transplant them to preferred areas in their agroforestry system as they need.

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