Location in BHU campus : Can be found growing in fields, hostels, along road side ,Botanical and Ayurvedic gardens.
Botanical name : Bombax ceiba L. Syn Bombax malabaricum DC Salmalia malabarica(DC.)Schott & Endl
Family : Bombacaceae
Vernacular / local Name : : Bengali-Simal, roktasimul, shembal, senur, pagun; Garo-Boichu, panchu; Gujarati-Sawar, simalo, shemolo, sanar; Hindi- Semul,shembal.rakat-senbal,kaantisembal,pagun; Kannada- Booruga, kemubooruga, mullubooruga, mullelava; Malayalam-Mullilavau, mullila-pula, pula-maram; Marathi-Saur, simlo, samar, kantesavar, shevari; Oriya-Bouro.buroh; Sanskrit-Salmali, rakta-pushpa, kantakadruma; mullilavu, illavam, pulai; Telugu-Booruga,konda-booruga,mund-laboorugachettu.
English names : Silk-cotton tree
A large deciduous tree ,up to 40m high ,with buttressed base and tiers of whorled branches covered with conical prickles in lower portion of the trunk.With age ,vertical fissures appear on the bark,prickles become blunt and finally drop off. Bark ashy and not rough.Leaves digitate,with 12-18 cm long stalk;leaflets 5-7 ,elliptic- oblong to ovate lanceolate.Flowers large ,10-12 cm in diameter ,fascicled near the end of branchlets ,bright scarlet or crimson,rarely yellow with petals bent backwards.. Calyx usually 3-lobed ,cup-shaped smooth ,white and soft silky inside.Petals oblong ,scarlet ,white- hairy outside , obtuse,with close parallel veins.Stamens long , about 75 in 6 bundles. Ovary 5-celled,style 5-lobed at the apex.Fruit ovoid woody capsule ,5 angled ,short stalked ,downy and 10-18 cm long .Seeds many, embedded in silky cotton and dispersed by wind. Pollinated by bats.
Fruiting : April- May . The fruits split open on the tree in April-May and disgorge large quantities of silky cotton with seeds.
In Rigveda and later Samhitas the tree is mentioned as a sacred one.As per one tale the creater of the world,Pitamaha or Brahma rested under this tree after the creation was over. The tree when in full bloom is compared to Lakshmi .The plant is also associated with the constellation Jyestha whose presiding deity is Indra.The flowers are offered to Shiva .The tree is called Yamadruma ,Yama being the God of death.Its wood is used in funeral pyres.The Silk cotton tree is also regarded with reverence throughout west Africa as well as in Jainism.
Wood is used in match industry and for making packing cases, fishing floats and shoe heels. Bark and roots are tonic and stimulant.Floss is used for stuffing mattresses,cushions,pillows ,quilts and surgical dressings.Flower buds and fleshy calyx are eaten as vegetable.Bark,fruits and gum are of medicinal value.Fatty oil from seeds is used as an illuminant as well as in soap industry.