red beauty Bombax Ceiba spring bloom crimson beauty jaipur jaipurthrumylens

Silk Cotton Tree | Semal -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. 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.

Silk Cotton Tree Names

The botanical name of the Semal Tree is Bombax Ceiba, in English it is called the Silk Cotton Tree. Semal Tree in Hindi is called – शाल्मली, काटेसांवर. In India, people commonly call it Semal ka Ped.

red beauty Bombax Ceiba spring bloom crimson beauty jaipur jaipurthrumylens
Crimson beauty. The Semal Tree is also called Silk Cotton Tree
Bombax Ceiba shamli kantesanwar semal tree flowers blooming in jaipur
A Semal tree during the spring
silk cotton tree semal on roadside in spring jaipur
The striking and vibrant colors on the roadside.

Finding Tesu tree in an urban landscape of Jaipur is not easy. In contrast, Semal Tree can be spotted on roadsides across central areas of Jaipur like MI Road and C-Scheme.

Blooming on the road in the pink city.

Semal Tree Flower

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.

Each of these flowers produces more than 7-8 million pollen from its 70-90 anthers for which cross-pollination is important. This is achieved with the help of birds and insects drawn by its color & beauty.


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 Kapok. The hot & dry summer weather makes the capsule open, allowing the seeds to fly with the winds due to fluffy structure. It is common to see the ground around the tree carpeted with these cotton like structures during the summers. In the ensuing months, the lucky seeds germinate into a plant due to rains. Here are pictures of the fluffy cotton like structure produced by Semal tree.


Silk Cotton Tree fabric

Semal Tree Uses

The tree is not merely beautiful, every part useful. Here are some common uses of the tree.

  • 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.


  • Fabric- 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 the spring season, the flowers are about to bloom.
  • Medicinal uses- Ayurvedic medicines are prepared from the gum produced by this tree. Almost every part of the tree has medicinal use in Ayurveda.
semal tree flower blooming in March spring time jaipurthrumylens
A Semal tree during early spring before the blooming of flowers
  • Culture- 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.
semal tree red flower blooming in spring season jaipur jaipurthrumylens
Bombax Ceiba or Silk cotton tree flower during the spring in Jaipur
  • Festival & customs- 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.

Semal Tree Price

The wood from this has a good demand. The Semal tree wood price ranges from Rs 250 to 400/cubic feet.

Semal Tree leaves

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!

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 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!!

silk cotton tree in jaipur semal ka ped

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.

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



131 thoughts on “Silk Cotton Tree | Semal -The Harbinger Of Spring

    1. It was a revelation to me too. Generally, Neem, Banyan/ Bargad and Peepul/ Bodhi tree are associated with rituals and customs. But our association with trees is much stronger. Thanks for sharing your views 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank You Neha. This tree is confined to Jaipur only. In fact, you can find this tree spread across India. Do visit Jaipur. I’m sure you’ll love the experience. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It was a revelation for me,as well! Every tree that I have written about has some connection with Ayurveda…Like the Tesu, Chilbill, Dhauk trees. It’s surprising how well developed Ayurveda was.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I think I have seen these trees but was not aware of their multiple uses and relevance to Holi.

    Thanks for the sharing this knowledge. I can now ask my dad to plant either one of these. My parents have this never-ending hobby of collecting trees in their home.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Every time I try to find more about a tree, it surprises me. There’s so much that we don’t know. While we have other knowledge and information, we are disconnected with nature and how little we know about it.
      I’m happy to know that your parents love trees. I’m sure they must have so many facts and information to share about trees. I hope that local climate is suitable for Semal tree to survive and thrive; it’s a hardy tree, though. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. 🙂


  2. Last night my wife and I watched a historical documentary India. Your beautiful city Jaipur came up. Thanks to your wonderful blog, we had already a personal connection to Jaipur. Thanks for the amazing photos in today’s post!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m very happy to learn this. I’m sure you two must have enjoyed the documentary, too. Was that a general documentary? There’s a very popular documentary series on Monkeys, shot in Jaipur…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. oh great! There was so much opulence associated with the Mughal empire because they invaded India and ruled for centuries before the Britishers occupied and forced them out. There’s interesting book on Kohinoor diamond by William Dalrymple, british writer and traveler who also explores part of Mughal rulers and how world’s most famous diamond ended up in UK from India. Se if it interest you. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful flowers and so wonderful that you shared the various phases of it. the shots are just beautiful. Loved the write up too – very informative. Thanks for joining Thursday Tree Love! Great to see you around! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Very interesting facts about the Semal tree. I know it is found in Bengal and it is called ‘Shimul’ in Bengali. The flowers are bright red and are an inseparable element of springtime festivities, and gave their presence even in songs. Your post gives us a lot of factual information on how the flowers have wide use which I was not aware of. Strangely, Bangalore abounds in many similar kinds of trees but I haven’t come across Semal here so far. Not that I know of. Of course we have a few varieties of other flowering trees here, typical of this season, with a rich array of colours, (typical being the flame of the forest ) which I’ll keep as a post for another time. 🙂 Great to see you join the linky.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy to know the Bengali name of this tree, Esha.We are so engrossed in our daily life that we are unable to notice the presence of such beautiful trees around us, unless we make a conscious effort. I have always liked the fact that Bangalore is green and has so many trees, all around. Gulmohar is common in this city that if someone were to ask me where to find Gulmohar I’ll probably say, everywhere across Bangalore. Even though jaipur is semi-arid but we do have variety of trees here. Hopefully, I should be able to share some more trees of Jaipur. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and providing inputs. Retrieved this from spam folder 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, thank you for taking the trouble to retrieve it! So glad 🙂 Yes, you are right…as the years go I can see how our lives have changed so much already. Thanks to technology we are even more wrapped up with gadgets on top of that which leaves space for very little else. I’m happy that you are planning to share more about the trees of Jaipur. For all I remember Jaipur used to be very green when we lived there and I recall moving to Ahmedabad and getting the shock of my life to find most of it was just concrete! It is sad that Bangalore is losing its beautiful trees, and all those tree-lined canopied roads of Old Bangalore are now giving way to metro work everywhere. People loved MG Road for it’s beautiful tree-lined roads and now you can see the ugly face of urban living there. So much for progress! Such is life. We ruin our city and run elsewhere to admire Nature!! Will be looking forward to your posts for the #treelove series! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. what you have just written is sad to read but then that’s the reality. While earlier I used to look forward to visiting Bangalore that’s not the case anymore. Traffic is a big pain.
        Jaipur is quite green, even now Esha. Of course, one can’t compare it with Bangalore given it’s climatic condition and topography which permits certain type of trees. In monsoon, the hills are all green and it’s difficult to believe that we are in a desert state! I’m sure you would have experienced this. You are so right about so called “development” in the city. Fortunately, I’m able to experience nature within a driving distance. Quite a breather, it is!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, totally agree Jaipur is way greener than many cities I know of. It will always be one of my favourite cities for that reason alone.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow… Such beautiful pics.. And you have described them very well.. Wow.. I didn’t knew about such medicinal uses of this plant.. Very informative post too.

    Have a great weekend, Arv.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Jackie. Thank You for appreciating and liking this post. There are many aspects of trees which we are not aware of being engrossed in our daily life. I’m happy you liked it. BTW, I found this comment in spam folder. Thanks for informing me. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello sir! You are most welcome.. The pics are very beautiful.. And yes, we are struck in this daily life, most of us get very less time to know about such interesting and useful tips.

        Yea.. I am having some problem with filters. I have contacted Akismet..

        Have a great week.. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for capturing the beauty of this tree arv! I had no idea about it…where do you gather so much information? Watching flowering trees during spring is a wonderful gift of Mother Nature! We have many around us but don’t know any names 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Its only once you start noticing things around you that information starts flowing in. All these years I never noticed the presence of assortment of tree around us. There have been some projects on trees whereby information was collated and put on website or book. Look up for trees of Delhi and trees of Pune on Google. You said it well, it’s a treat. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Could be Peter. Though I have never heard about it. The name sounds similar too. It’s possible given that there are some variations given the geographical differences. 🙂


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