Ochroma is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, containing the sole species Ochroma pyramidale known as the balsa tree. It is a fast-growing tree that can grow up to 30 m tall. Balsa wood is a lightweight material with many uses. Balsa trees are native to Central America and South America. A member of the mallow family, O. pyramidale is native from southern Mexico to southern Brazil, but can now be found in many other countries. It is a pioneer plant, which establishes itself in clearings in forests, either man-made or where trees have fallen, or in abandoned agricultural fields, it grows rapidly, up to 27 m in 10–15 years. The speed of growth accounts for the lightness of the wood. Trees do not live beyond 30 to 40 years. Flowers are produced from the third year onwards at the end of the rainy season when few other trees are in flower; the large flowers remain open overnight. Each may contain a pool of nectar up to 2.5 cm deep. Daytime pollinators include capuchin monkeys. However, most pollination occurs at night.

The main pollinators were once thought to be bats, but recent evidence suggests that two nocturnal arboreal mammals, the kinkajou and the olingo, may be the primary pollinators. Ecuador supplies 95% or more of commercial balsa. In recent years, about 60% of the balsa has been plantation-grown in densely packed patches of around 1000 trees per hectare, it is dry-season deciduous, with large 30 - to 40-cm, weakly palmately lobed leaves. Being a deciduous angiosperm, balsa is classified as a hardwood despite the wood itself being soft, it is the softest commercial hardwood. The trees are harvested after six to 10 years of growth; the name balsa comes from the Spanish word for "raft". Balsa lumber is soft and light, with a coarse, open grain; the density of dry balsa wood ranges from 40–340 kg/m3, with a typical density around 160 kg/m3. The wood of the living tree has large cells; this gives the wood a spongy texture. It makes the wood of the living tree not much lighter than water and able to float.

For commercial production, the wood is kiln-dried for about two weeks, leaving the cells hollow and empty. The large volume-to-surface ratio of the resulting thin-walled, empty cells gives the dried wood a large strength-to-weight ratio because the cells are air. Unlike rotted wood, which soon disintegrates in the rainforests where balsa trees grow, the cell walls of kiln-seasoned balsa wood retain their strong structure of cellulose and lignin; because it is low in density but high in strength, balsa is a popular material for light, stiff structures in model bridge tests, model buildings, construction of model aircraft. However, it is valued as a component of full-sized light wooden aeroplanes, most notably the World War II de Havilland Mosquito. Balsa is used to make wooden crankbaits for fishing Rapala lures. Sticks of dried balsa are useful as makeshift pens for calligraphy when commercial metal nibs of the desired width are not available. Balsa wood is used as a core material in composites.

In table tennis bats, a balsa layer is sandwiched between two pieces of thin plywood made from other species of wood. Balsa wood is used in laminates together with glass-reinforced plastic for making high-quality balsa surfboards and for the decks and topsides of many types of boats pleasure craft less than 30 m in length. On a boat, the balsa core is end-grain balsa, much more resistant to compression than if the soft balsa wood were laid lengthwise. Balsa is used in the manufacture of "breakaway" wooden props such as tables and chairs that are designed to be broken as part of theatre and television productions; the fifth and sixth generations of the Chevrolet Corvette had floor pans composed of balsa sandwiched between sheets of carbon fiber reinforced plastic. Norwegian scientist and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, convinced that early contact between the peoples of South America and Polynesia was possible, built the raft Kon Tiki from balsa logs, upon it his crew and he sailed the Pacific Ocean from Peru to the Polynesian Tuamotu Archipelago in 1947.

However, the Kon Tiki logs were not seasoned and owed much of their buoyancy to the fact that their sap was of lower density than seawater. This serendipitously may have saved the expedition, because it prevented the seawater from waterlogging the wood and sinking the raft. Balsa wood is a popular wood type used in the arts of whittling, surfing; when picture frames still used wood, balsa was used in a baroque style because of the ease of shaping the design. Tilia, another tree producing lightweight lumber Paulownia Media related to Ochroma pyramidale at Wikimedia Commons

Jo Ratcliffe

Jo Ratcliffe is a London based artist known for her kaleidoscopic animations, strange hand-drawn characters, spindly scenes sometimes overlain atop live action footage. She is commissioned by fashion labels and magazines to create art films and editorials that appear both online and in print, her illustrations are visible featured on the covers of Vogue Nippon and Vogue UK, as well as in the promotional imagery of Louis Vuitton. Ratcliffe is an animation director and designer for notable clients such as Lady Gaga, Barneys New York, Jimmy Choo and Louis Vuitton, her in-house studio consists of herself and a specialist team focusing on illustration, graphic design, logo design, other various disciplines. Born in Berkshire, England, Jo Ratcliffe studied painting and print making at Saint Martin's College of Art and Design in London. Just out of college, she got her first art job drawing the comic book adventures of "Cindy" for Marvel Comics. Ratcliffe wielded this same hand-drawn aesthetic in her early editorial work for London-based fashion-art magazine and Confused, to which she contributed, incorporating illustration into graphics.

Although she came from a background of working with traditional media, Ratcliffe taught herself Photoshop and Illustrator - still her tools of choice. Jo Ratcliffe is known for her animated fashion films, typographic work, graphics, but her surreal illustrations of lanky, hand drawn women have garnered attention from magazines like Another Magazine, V Magazine, computerarts, NOWNESS and "The Gentlewoman." Stylistically, Ratcliffe's work lends itself to hand drawn illustration. Ratcliffe has served as director and designer on fashion films both animated and live-action for high-profile fashion labels, including Nina Ricci, Chloe, Jimmy Choo, Barneys New York, Cole Haan. In an interview with she discusses a project she did with Kate Moss and, fashion house, Balmain in which she was asked to convey Moss's mood through animation. In addition to animation and illustration, Jo Ratcliffe specialises in logo design as well as set design, her sets have been used on photo shoots for Wallpaper Magazine.

And her candy colored, typographic work appears on the album cover of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream.'Ratcliffe has worked extensively with famous photography duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin as members of theCollectiveShift. She collaborated on Lady Gaga's 2013 music video Applause as the animation director. Previous notable collaborations have been made with Nina Ricci and Barneys New York under Inez and Vinoodh. Clients include: Lady Gaga, Louis Vuitton, Barneys New York, Nina Ricci, Kenzo, Jimmy Choo, Vogue Nippon, British Vogue, Another Magazine, V magazine and Confused Magazine, Wallpaper Magazine, Nylon Magazine, Nowness Magazine. Official website Jo Ratcliffe at theCollectiveShift


Strange+ is a gag manga series by Verno Mikawa. It has been serialized in Ichijinsha's Josei manga magazine Monthly Comic Zero Sum since the magazine's first issue in March 2002 and has been collected in nineteen tankōbon volumes as of November 2013. An anime television series adaptation by Seven began airing from January 9, 2014. A second season was announced for July. Kō Voiced by: Tomokazu Seki Takumi Voiced by: Jun Fukuyama Masamune Voiced by: Ryōtarō Okiayu Miwa Voiced by: Satsuki Yukino Ozu Voiced by: Toshiyuki Morikawa Dorothy Voiced by: Taeko Kawata Director Mikuni Voiced by: Ai Orikasa Mera Voiced by: Katsuyuki Konishi Kaori Voiced by: Wataru Hatano Nana Voiced by: Yukana Kyōya Voiced by: Mitsuki Saiga Kiyoko Voiced by: Ayano Terasaki Rusty Nail Voiced by: Shoko Nagahiro Kudō Voiced by: Shigeru Chiba An anime television series adaptation by Seven began airing from January 9, 2014; the series was simulcasted by Crunchyroll with English subtitles in North America and other select parts of the world.

A sequel series was simulcast on Crunchyroll in July. Official anime website Strange+ at Anime News Network's encyclopedia