As you drive down the dividing road between sectors nine and four, there’ll be bright spots in red, peeping over a canopy of green. And as you inch closer, you’ll come face to face with a towering leafless tree, blooms of scarlet red adorning it like sparkling rubies suspended against the cool blue of the sky. So big are the five petalled flowers of the Silk Cotton Tree that you’ll find strewn on the ground, their sweet fragrance filling the air.
Equally massive and impressive is the trunk of this ornamental deciduous tree – straight, with large buttresses at the base, the conical hollowness of it making them ideal nooks of seating. Also known as Simal, Simbal, Cotton Wood Tree, Pagun and Ragatsemal, this tree’s botanical name is Bombax Ceiba and it belongs to the Bombacaceae family.
While its beautiful vermillion-coloured flowers, sometimes even sunkissed orange, are swept or squished away in cities, in the jungles, and in this case the foothills of Shivaliks, these are devoured by sambars. Its seeds, in fact, are a nourishing food for the cattle while the flowers are edible. From the Semul fruit, a cotton substance called Kopak is extracted and used to stuff pillows and cushions. The wood, of course, is put to good use too. In the meantime, why don’t we simply enjoy these bloom in season for a very limited time – another month or so.