Bombax ceiba (Semal)
Bombaxceiba (Bombacaceae) is a large deciduous tree with a straight trunk and horizontal branches. It is known as the king of forest due to its massive and showy flowers. It is commonly called Semal or Red Silk Cotton Tree. The tree reaches up to 40 meters in height and 2 meters in diameter. The bark is smooth, thick, ash to silver grey in colour and becomes with age. The leaf is 15-30 cm long and composed of several leaflets. The leaflets are acuminate, leathery, glabrous and lanceolate. The flowers are attractive, bright red, numerous, large cup-shaped and appears from January to March. The flowers are edible and cooked as a vegetable in some countries. It is mostly planted as the ornamental plant in botanical gardens and avenues due to its beautiful flowers which are visible from long distances. The nectar in flowers attract the birds and insects for pollination. The fruit is capsule which are about 10-18 cm in length, brown, woody, oblong-oval shaped and lined within silky hairs.
Seeds of Bombax ceiba
The capsule contains numerous seeds which are obovoid in shape, smooth in texture and about 6-9 mm long in size. The ripen seeds are also eaten when roasted. They surrounded by thick mass of silky long hairs or floss. This floss is also known as Indian Kapok which is soft, light, water repellant, elastic and resistant in nature. It isused to manufacture life saving appliances such as stuffing pillows and cushions, stuffing lifebelts, wadded cloth covers and insulating material for electric appliances. It is also used in mattresses, laces and instruments etc. The seed produces about 22%-25% oil which is edible and used as a substitute for cottonseed oil and in the manufacture of lubricants and soaps. For propagation, seeds have high germination rates and are sown directly without pre-treatment. Sprouting of seedlings take place within 10-25 days and then transferred to their permanent site.
Uses of Bombax ceiba Wood
- The wood of Bombaxceiba has same importance as that of matchwood.
- It is used to make plywood, packing cases, planking, boarding, toys, shingles, curbs, coffins and brush handles.
- It is considered as the “wood wools” which is valuable in packing material.
- It is used in cheap construction of boats, boatyards and canoe however, the life expectancy of the boat is only 2 to 3 years.
- A fiber is obtained from bark which is used for cordage and ropes.
- The gum obtained from bark contains tannins which is used as a cement for coating iron saucepans when mixed with ashes and castor oil.
- The gum is stimulant, analgesic, anti-dysenteric and can cured diarrhea and giardiasis.
Medicinal properties of Bombax ceiba
All parts of plant have medicinal properties and used in the treatment of various disorders such as fractures, coughs, cholera, toothache, influenza, urinary problems and snake bites.
- The flowers are used to treat cutaneous problems.
- The young roots are used in the treatment of tubercular fistula, urinary complaints, abdominal pain, coughs and impotency.
- The leaves are used in the treatment hypotension while shoot decoctions are reported to treat leprosy, spider or snake bites, syphilis and ulcer.
- The gum has potential to cure influenza, menorrhagia and dysentery.
- The bark is used against stings, cholera and pleurisy. It is also used in bandages and given in infusion for toothache.
- Bombax ceiba grows best in tropical, low humid lands.
- It prefers a deep, rich and well-drained soil.
- It requires temperature within 28-42˚C although it can tolerate 5-49˚C.
- It prefers annual rainfall of 750-4000 mm.
- It is drought tolerant and can stand with frost and inundation of the soil.
- It needs soil pH within 5.5-6.5 but can also tolerate 4.9-7.2.
- The tree has a thick bark which act as an insulator and recovers it from fire.