Botanical: Bombax Ceiba | Hindi: सेमल| Marathi: सांवर | English: Silk Cotton Tree

Silk Cotton Tree


The Semal tree, scientifically known as Bombax Ceiba, commonly known as the red silk-cotton tree, is a majestic deciduous tree that holds cultural, ecological, and economic significance in various regions of Asia. With a towering height that can reach up to 60 meters, this tree is renowned for its striking appearance, characterized by a straight trunk and distinctive buttresses at its base. During the dry season, the tree sheds its leaves, revealing a remarkable crown of large, vivid red flowers that resemble cotton balls, thus giving rise to its common name. Indigenous to tropical and subtropical climates, Bombax ceiba thrives in a variety of soil types, from clay to sandy soils, and is often found near riverbanks. The tree’s ecological role is crucial, as its roots help prevent soil erosion, and its towering presence provides habitat and nesting sites for various bird species. In addition to its environmental contributions, Bombax ceiba has a rich cultural history, with its wood often used in traditional medicine and its fibers employed for making ropes, mattresses, and even clothing. Beyond its utilitarian uses, the red silk-cotton tree holds spiritual significance in some cultures, symbolizing resilience and endurance. Its vibrant blossoms are associated with rituals and festivals, making it a revered presence in various religious ceremonies. The majestic and imposing stature of Bombax ceiba, coupled with its cultural and ecological contributions, solidifies its place as a revered and integral part of the natural and cultural landscape in many regions across Asia

Interesting Facts

Medicine and Wellness
Medicinal Uses: In Ayurveda, almost each part of the Semal tree is useful. Be it the root or flowers or its bark or fruits or its seeds or even its prickles! The gum obtained from the tree known as Mocharas, and has Ayurvedic applications. The gum is cooling, astringent, stimulant, tonic & demulcent in nature. It is useful in dysentery, hemoptysis, pulmonary tuberculosis, influenza, burning sensation, menorrhagia, enteritis, for healing wounds and to stop bleeding. Flowers are astringent and good for skin troubles & hemorrhoids. Seeds are useful in treating gonorrhea & chronic cystitis. A paste made out of prickles is good for restoring skin color especially on the face. Young fruits are useful in calculus affections, chronic inflammations, ulceration of bladder & kidney.
Culture and Belief
Culture and Tradition: Since Vedic times, the tree has been considered as God tree by various communities. God tree means that no one is allowed to hurt the tree in anyway. Even today the tree is worshiped, respected, guarded and conserved by number of tribes in Rajasthan, Manipur, Chhattisgarh & Madhya Pradesh being considered as a tree totem. The tree has so much importance amongst these tribes that some of them consider this tree as one of their own relatives and they used to praise its shade.
Bees, Butterflies, Birds: 3Bs of healthy environment.
Environmental Impact:  The Semal tree possesses an unparalleled ability to draw birds, creating a constant symphony of bird voices when in bloom. Orioles, Crows, Bulbuls, Mynahs, Drongo, Tree Pie, Babblers, Great Tits, Sun-birds, Parakeets, Flower-Peckers, and numerous other species engage in lively disputes and jostle for a taste of the delectable nectar. The flowers’ attraction to bees and various insects, in turn, brings insect-eating birds into the scene. Given the Semal tree’s substantial size and height, it emerges as the preferred roosting and resting spot for larger birds, particularly vultures and eagles. Together with smaller birds, they contribute to a magnificent symphony of nature.

Anandvan Trivia Quiz

Question 1: How did the tree get it’s thorns as per Mahabharata?
Answer: In the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian epic, there is a story that explains how the red silk-cotton tree (Bombax ceiba) got its thorns. According to the legend, there was a sage named Kaushika who was deeply devoted to his meditation. One day, while he was in deep concentration, a king named Shveta came to the same forest for a hunting expedition. The king’s soldiers, in pursuit of game, disturbed the sage’s meditation. Angered by the disturbance, Sage Kaushika cursed the king, turning him into a thorny tree. Later, regretting his hasty curse, the sage told the king that he would be relieved of the curse when a virtuous person touched the tree with love and reverence.  Years later, during the Kurukshetra War of the Mahabharata, the Pandava prince Arjuna, known for his virtue and righteousness, sought shelter under this thorny tree. He used it as a disguise to hide during the incognito period (Agyatavasa) that the Pandavas had to spend in exile. When Arjuna touched the tree with respect, the curse was lifted, and King Shveta regained his human form. In gratitude, the king granted a boon to Arjuna, who requested divine weapons for the impending war. This story is symbolic of the interplay of curses, virtues, and the eventual redemption found in the Mahabharata, showcasing the moral and ethical dimensions prevalent in Hindu mythology .

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