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Silk Cotton Tree/ Semal Tree..The harbinger of spring

Last year, I posted Search for Flame of Forest/ Tesu tree in Jaipur. Flowers of  Flame of the Forest/ Tesu tree is used for preparing organic Gulaal. Gulaal is a powder used in Holi – the festival of colors.

Read : Search for Flame of Forest/ Tesu tree in Jaipur

red beauty Bombax Ceiba spring bloom crimson beauty jaipur jaipurthrumylens
Crimson beauty. Semal Tree also called Silk Cotton Tree

During my explorations in parks to find Tesu tree, I spotted this crimson beauty. Unaware of its name, a street vendor in the vicinity came to my rescue – Semal tree!

Bombax Ceiba shamli kantesanwar semal tree flowers blooming in jaipur
Semal tree during the spring

It’s easiest to spot Semal tree during the spring time. Semal Tree is known as Silk Cotton Tree or Bombax Ceiba. In Hindi, Semal Tree is called – शाल्मली, काटेसांवर

silk cotton tree semal on roadside in spring jaipur
The striking and vibrant colors on the roadside. Semal Tree/ Solk Cotton Tree

Finding Tesu tree in an urban jungle is not easy. In contrast, Semal Tree can be spotted on road sides across the city.

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Blooming on the road in pink city. Silk Cotton Tree

It’s a beautiful tree with big & bright red flowers which stands out among the surroundings. Its flower has 5 petals which only appears in the spring before the new foliage.

semal tree flower in spring jaipur jaipurthrumylens
A close up of the Semal flower.

These red flowers create a spectacular look. The flower produces a capsule, it’s fruit. This fruit of this tree is a ball like structure which appears during April and is full of cotton like fiber called Kopak.

In rural areas, It is for this fiber that villagers gather the Semal fruit. Kopak is used for filling low priced pillows and quilts, which is commonly used in rural areas in India.

silk cotton tree flower buds semal ka ped
Captured at the start of spring season, the flowers are about to bloom.

The tree is not merely beautiful, every part of this tree is useful.  Bark of Semal tree is a soft wood, used in the match sticks. Since the bark lasts long even when submerged in water, fishermen use it as a float. Its seed produces an edible oil, used in making soaps.

It has a medicinal use, too.  Ayurvedic medicines are prepared from the gum produced by this tree. Almost every part of the tree has a medicinal use in Ayurveda.

semal tree flower blooming in March spring time jaipurthrumylens
Semal tree during early spring before the blooming of flowers

Many tribal communities in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh worship Semal tree. They derive many uses from this tree; it’s a part and parcel of their everyday life. The tree attracts many birds and bees, after all, that’s what bright color flowers are for.

semal tree red flower blooming in spring season jaipur jaipurthrumylens
Bombax Ceiba or Silk cotton tree flower during the spring in Jaipur

According to customs, Semal Tree stem is used as Holi-Danda during Holika Dahan on Holi  as it is considered as a symbol of mythological character Prahlad. This has resulted cutting of Semal tree at a fast pace in certain regions.  The fall in population of this important tree species has worried environmentalists. It’s imperative that we conserve this tree species to ensure the balance in ecology as many birds and bees depend on this tree. Cutting any link in the food chain has a disastrous effect. Reduction in bee population in some places is already a concern. It’s being said that if the bees vanish from this planet, extinction of human population is guaranteed!

silk cotton tree flower semal red flower crimson beauty in spring ayurvedic tree jaipurthrumylens

It’s interesting to note how both Tesu and Semal tree are linked with the festival of Holi. Both these tree bloom during March-April period during which the Holi is celebrated. Both these tree have bright flowers. Somehow it seems nature has planned it out, so well!!

silk cotton tree in jaipur semal ka ped

I Wish” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Wish to see more Semal tree around, after-all It’s a beautiful tree.

Have you ever spotted one in your vicinity?

Check out other stories in Trees of Jaipur.

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semal flower phool fallen on the ground in jaipur
The side walk looks beautiful when the Semal flowers all around.

This post is also linked to the Thursday Tree Love

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119 thoughts on “Silk Cotton Tree/ Semal Tree..The harbinger of spring

    1. Semal is used as holi danda. Its not used for preparing gulaal . Tesu flower are used for preparing gulaal, link given in this post on the write up at start of this post. I’m happy you liked this post

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  1. I remember this tree from my childhood days. It’s an absolute wonder to look at when it’s in full bloom. As a 7th grader I used to walk past one such tree every day to collect it’s flowers. It lives upto its name – silk cotton tree- because it’s petals have an amzing rich, silky feel to it. And your pics do it justice. Beautifully captured

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      1. we too have bougainvilleas blooming here in Jaipur, but not many Gulmohar trees. Gulmohar is so popular in Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore. It’s a beautiful tree. 🙂

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  2. Sounds like you persisted quite a bit to look for the Tetsu tree, Arv. The Semal tree sounds very much impressive. Interesting to hear its place in faith and religion, and hopefully it’s not a tree that will go extinct soon. After all, it takes a while for trees to grow and bloom.

    Very impressive close ups of the flower and fruit, and a diverse array of shots too. Love the last shot on the ground. Those fruit almost resemble pears 🙂 Silk Cotton tree is such a fitting name for it – the kopak being used to fill pillows. Imagine, if you get a pillow like that, you will be literally sleeping on a bed of flowers ::

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    1. Mabel these pictures are of flowers only. The fruit will appear after a while, so I haven’t posted their pictures, yet. In our evolution cycle, we tend to use natural products since they are available all around us, in plenty. As we move up, we replace them with “new” and “advanced” things like fiber pillows. And then some day we find that these are not good for health and create problems like asthma and so on. Unfortunately, we are ditching natural products because of thriving commercial interests. we seriously need to fall back on natural things rather than factory made commercial stuff.

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      1. Haha! Those buds look like the fruit, lol 😀 They actually look quite sizable too. I agree with you. More natural stuff the better, not only good for our health but good for the environment. Interesting that you bring up the subject of pillow in your blog. I’m on the hunt to buy a new pillow 😀

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      2. what a coincidence Mabel! I hope you are able to find something that has natural filling. It’s hard to find, though except for the down feathers which is quite pricey! I was also mistaken with the buds, initially. But then I saw the flowers blooming from few to clear out the confusion. I guess I will post a picture of the fruit, as well. 🙂

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      3. I probably will have to go with fake filling since I can’t afford something more than that right now 😀 Good luck with getting more shots in the warmer weather. I am sure you will come up with some great ones as usual 🙂

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      4. That’s a reality Mabel. Fifty years ago artificial was expensive, its the other way around now! Thanks for the good wishes. Unfortunately as the weather turns hot, the photo quality goes down. Too much light …and its quite harsh too.:)

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  3. Such a beautiful tree, Arv, and I can understand your concern about its future due to so many being cut down. Interesting to read about the Semal tree’s link with the festival of Holi, and to the production of kapok. Lovely post.

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      1. Great. Out here the trees are all bare now. The leaves are yet to appear. Few of these trees do have beautiful flowers but then they have very less flowers. Enjoy the sight there, Sudhir. 🙂

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      1. Yes we have many types of trees here and since the leaves are gone during winter it’s always a great sign in spring to see the buds flowers and leaves appearing 😊

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    1. Thanks. When I started blogging I wanted to do an entire project on trees. I guess somewhere in between other things took over. Also I don’t really know if people are actually interested in knowing more about trees?
      Thanks for the appreciation 🙂

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