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. During my explorations in parks to find Tesu tree, I spotted this visual feast in the crimson shade of Semal flowers. Unaware of its name, a street vendor in the vicinity came to my rescue; he mentioned it is a Semal tree! It’s easiest to spot the Semal tree during the springtime. The botanical name of the Semal Tree is Bombax Ceiba. It is also called the Silk Cotton Tree. Semal Tree in Hindi is called – शाल्मली, काटेसांवर, people commonly call it Semal ka Ped.
Finding Tesu tree in an urban jungle is not easy. In contrast, Semal Tree can be spotted on roadsides across the city.
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.
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 that 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.
Semal Tree Uses
The tree is not merely beautiful, every part of this tree is useful. The bark of the Semal tree is a softwood, used in the match sticks. Since the bark lasts long even when submerged in water, fishermen use it as the float. Its seed produces 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 medicinal use in Ayurveda.
Many tribal communities in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh worship a 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.
According to customs, the stem of this tree is used as Holi-Danda during Holika Dahan on Holi as it is considered as a symbol of mythological character Prahlad. This has resulted in the cutting of the Semal tree at a fast pace in certain regions. The wood from this has a good demand. The Semal tree wood price ranges from Rs 250 to 400/cubic feet.
The fall in the 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 the bee population in some places is already a concern. It’s being said that if the bees vanish from this planet, extinction of the human population is guaranteed!
It’s interesting to note how both Tesu and Semal tree is linked with the festival of Holi. Both these trees bloom during the March-April period during which the Holi is celebrated and has bright flowers. Somehow it seems nature has planned it out, so well!!
I hope to see a lot more Semal trees in Jaipur, after-all It’s a beautiful tree. It will be interesting to mention that one of the famous writers from India- Ruskin Bond has also written about this tree in his book – The world of trees. He has a chapter called The Feast in the Semal Tree. Have you read this book?
Have you ever spotted one in your vicinity?
Check out other stories in the Trees of Jaipur.