Silk cotton tree is a type of native cotton tree with large red flowers. The genus name Salmalia
is derived from the sanskrit name shaalmali
. Silk cotton trees comprise eight species in the genus Bombax, native to India, tropical southern Asia, northern Australia and tropical Africa. S Its wood, when sawn fresh, is white in color. However, with exposure and passage of time it grows darkish gray. It is as light as 10 to 12 kg, per cubic foot. It is easy to work but not durable anywhere other than under water.
This Asian tropical tree is popular for construction work, but is very good and prized for manufacture of plywood, match boxes and sticks, scabbards, patterns, moulds, etc. Also for making canoes and light duty boats and or other structures required under water. Although its stout trunk suggests that it is useful for timber, its wood is too soft to be very useful.
Silk Tree grows to an average of 20 meters, with old trees up to 60 meters in wet tropical regions. The trunk and limb bear numerous conical spines particularly when young, but get eroded when older. The leaves are palmate with about 6 leaflets radiating from a central point (tip of petiole), an average of 7–10 centimetres, wide, 13–15 centimetres in length. The leaf's long flexible petiole is up to 20 centimetres long.
Cup-shaped flowers solitary or clustered, axillary or sub-terminal, fascicles at or near the ends of the branches, when the tree is bare of leaves, an average of 7–11 cm wide, 14 cm in width, petals up to 12 cm in length, calyx is cup-shaped usually 3 lobed, an average of 3–5 cm in diameter. Staminal tube is short, more than 60 in 5 bundles. Stigma is light red, up to 9 cm in length, ovary is pink, 1.5–2 cm in length, with the skin of the ovary covered in white silky hair at 1mm long. Seeds are numerous, long, ovoid, black or gray in colour and packed in white cotton.
The fruit, which reaches an average of 13 cm in length, is light-green in color in immature fruits, brown in mature fruits.
Used for diarrhoea, dysentery, haemoptysis, bleeding piles, menorrhagia, spermatorrhoea. Root and pod—used for the treatment of low vitality and debility.
The dry cores of the Bombax ceiba
flower are an essential ingredient of the nam ngiao spicy noodle soup of the cuisine of Shan State and Northern Thailand, as well as the kaeng khae curry. Its flower buds known as "Marathi Moggu" are also used in regional cuisine of Southern India as a spice as well as in herbal medicine.