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The Fluffy Fascination of the Silk Cotton Tree | #ThursdayTreeLove |

Genus: Bombax Ceiba

Common Name: Silk cotton tree / Kapok / Semal Tree / Shimuli

The beginning of the hot months of summers are often punctuated with fluffy snowballs floating on the dusty May winds. These are the seed pods of the Bombax Ceiba or the Silk cotton tree; so called because of the silky strands of the cotton fluff balls.

While these pods can pose quite an anathema to folks with breathing disorders, they make for a very pretty sight for the romantics. As children, we used to chase them while they floated in the air above, hoping to catch at least one of them. The silk balls remind one of dandelions and can be blown onto, to disperse the seeds and the filaments.

The tree bursts into thick fleshy and huge red flowers ( some shades of reds too) which create quite a mess wherever they fall. The flowers tend to rot and attract some pests too. So all in all not a favored tree in residential colonies where cars have to be parked.

But in full bloom its quite a magnificent sight to behold. The entire tree is dotted with the crimson blooms, with nary a leaf to contrast them. These trees grow quite tall and are one of my favorite in the city of New Delhi where its quite a common sight.

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Bombax ceiba- silk cotton tree- redf lowers- thursday tree love
This huge specimen graces one of the colony roads where I currently reside in Gurgaon.

Legend has it that this tree was bought from a region located between Southern China and Northern Vietnam to China. The king of this region called Nam Yuet, presented a tree to the emperor of the Han dynasty sometime in the 2nd century BC.

In Cantonese, Bombax Ceiba can be literally translated to silk-cotton flowers. It is the official flower of Guangzhou which is the capital of Guangdong provine in Southern China. Interestingly, the logo on the blue tail fin of the China Southern Airlines is the Kapok flower. The flowers are normally dried and boiled into tea or soups by the elderly in China.

Some villages in India, cultivate this tree for the cotton like fiber which is then used to fill mattresses, quilts and pillows.


Have you ever seen this tree? Its also seen in shades of orange and pale reds. Have you ever chased its silken puffs?

Thursday Tree Love is a fabulous tree hop by the lovely Parul K Thakur who opens the blog hop every 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month. So if you have a gorgeous tree to share with us, please link up on her post.

Meantime you can have a look at the tree I shared last fortnight here

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17 thoughts on “The Fluffy Fascination of the Silk Cotton Tree | #ThursdayTreeLove |

  1. Ooh I love this tree. At one time I could spot lots of them especially on the western ghats where the road to Mahabaleshwar would be aflame with red in the summer. I particularly like cushions made from the cotton and I still have a pillow that is so soft and cuddly that it becomes quite a shapeless bag as it gets older. And then I like feeling out the hard seeds – something that helps me sleep…..

    1. Oh wow you actually have a cushion stuffed with cotton from this tree? Thats splendid! I dont know anyone who still uses it. I am amazed to know that this tree grows on the Western Ghats too- isnt it such a diverse tree!!!

  2. These are beautiful. I have seen them in Bangalore too but never while growing up. So I have chased cotton but not the silk cotton. I loved the tree and that backdrop of the building. It’s lovely. Also loved the facts that you shared about the tree. Always good to know some history and origin.
    See you back on the 10th, Shalini!

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