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 crimson beauty. Unaware of its name, a street vendor in the vicinity came to my rescue – Semal tree!
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
Finding Tesu tree in an urban jungle is not easy. In contrast, Semal Tree can be spotted on road sides 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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!!
I hope 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.