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. 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


  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

    Liked by 2 people

      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. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh yes, bougainvillea is a very hardy shrub. There’s only one place I haven’t seen it, and it’s nowhere 😀 😀 I love Gulmohars, and Amaltas. Both remind me of colorful grapes 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  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 ::

    Liked by 2 people

    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.


      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 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      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. 🙂


      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 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      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.:)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting to know about the Semal tree. It seems to be a very useful tree indeed and yeah, it is beautiful. I see there are no leaves on the tree will they come after instead of the flowers?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. 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.

    Liked by 1 person

      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. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      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 😊

        Liked by 1 person

    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 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is so beautiful and your post is also informative about the other importance of the tree. I knew the use of the fruits to make cotton and the esthetic feel when the flowers are in full bloom. Many regions might have many rituals associated with the tree but for any cause, trees should not be cut down. Along with this tree, every tree plays an important role in the ecosystem so they must be preserved. After relocating to Pune I see these trees more often by the roadside which was rare in my native place in Kolkata so I become very delighted to see the bright red blooms covering the tree.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right, each region has its own way of celebrating a tree by way of rituals. We need to highlight their importance in our lives. We hardly know which trees are present around us which is sad, in a way. I’m glad you have found these trees in Pune. Do you look around for trees in your daily life?


      1. I do look around trees, although I may not know a lot about them but I love trees and among other reasons the main reason is for bird watching 🙂 the flowers and the fruits are the next and then comes the foliage and after that the esthetic value it provides to the place… I can just go on with my reasons for watching trees. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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