Cotton Tree, Bombax ceiba

Tropical tree, Bombax ceiba, is a member of the genus Bombax. It is more familiarly known as the Cotton Tree.

In areas of Malay, Indonesia, Southern China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan the tree is commonly planted. Chinese historical accounts tell of an ancient king of Nam Yuet, Chiu To, who offered the tree as a gift to the Emperor of Han Dynasty in 2nd Century B.C. Also, the tree, which is referred to as Semal, is commonly planted in parks and along roadsides in India. New Delhi, specifically grows the tree, although it does not reach its full height in this region due to the semi arid climate. The tree shows two significant marked growth sprints in India, during spring and monsoon season.

The tree is held aloft by a straight, tall trunk with sharp spikes to deter animal attacks. Although its sturdy trunk suggests that is practical for lumber, its wood is too malleable to be very useful. It is a deciduous tree, with 5-petal, red flowers that appear in the spring before new leaves bud. The tree produces a capsule which contains white fibers, resembling cotton. In early May, these cotton fibers are visible floating in the wind.

The cotton-like fiber inside the fruit capsules make a suitable alternative for cotton. The flower is a popular ingredient when making Chinese herb tea.

In places like Guangzhou and Kaohsiung, the tree flower is the flower emblem. Folklore tradition in Hong Kong suggests that weather is expected to get hotter soon after the tree blooms.

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