Characteristics of Red Cotton Tree (Bombax ceiba) in the Wild

Bombax ceiba
Red Cotton Tree or Kapok is commonly known as a cotton tree. It is also sometimes referred to as the Malabar Silk-cotton Tree or Red Silk-cotton tree and is still a family with the common Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra).

The Red Cotton Tree is a tropical flora that has upright stems and leaves fall in winter. The flowers are red with 5 petals that appear in spring before new foliage grows.

This tree produces capsule-shaped fruit which when ripe contains cotton. The trunk of the tree has large hard thorns, and the wood of the tree is not classified as a hardwood.

HISTORY OF THE RED COTTON TREE TREE
The Red Cotton Tree is planted widely in Southeast Asian countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, and Taiwan. According to Chinese historical records, the king of Nam Yuet (now Vietnam), Zhao Tuo, gave the Red Cotton Tree to the emperor of the Han dynasty in the 2nd century BC.

 
The Red Cotton Tree plays an important role in southern Chinese culture, especially Cantonese. The flowers are registered as the official flower of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province in southern China.

Ancient people often picked the Red Cotton Tree flowers that fell on the ground to dry and then used them to make tea.

Red Cotton Tree flowers are also used as a trademark of Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines.

 

Characteristics of Red Cotton Tree Leaf

Bombax ceiba Leaf
Source : flickr.com/Cerlin Ng

The leaves are palate, containing about 6 leaflets, on average each leaf has a width of 7-10 cm, a length of 13-15 cm, and a long petiole about 15-20 cm.

 

Characteristics of Red Cotton Tree Flower

Bombax ceiba Flower
Source : flickr.com/Cerlin Ng

The flowers are cup-shaped, solitary or clustered, growing at the tips of branches when the trees drop leaves, measuring 7-11 cm long and 14 cm wide.

The Red Cotton Tree flower is very attractive to wildlife, such as the Japanese Spectacle Bird (Zosterops japonicus), Honey Bee, and several other Bees species.

 

Characteristics of Red Cotton Tree Fruit

Bombax ceiba Fruit
Source : flickr.com/Cerlin Ng

The fruit is about 15 cm long, green when young and brown when old or ripe.

 

Characteristics of Red Cotton Tree

Bombax ceiba Tree
Source : flickr.com/Cyril Gros

The Red Cotton Tree can grow up to 20 meters tall in the wild and likes a slightly wet tropical climate.

Young branches have dense spines but become thornless when the branches turn into older stems.

The book “The useful native plants of Australia” published in 1889 notes that the Red Cotton Tree at that time was known as Bombax malabaricum.

 

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