First published in November 2016
Moving around Delhi this time of the year, one comes across Semal – a prominent and hardy tree also known as Cotton Silk, blooming in full radiance as an avenue tree singularly capable of drawing anybody’s attention because of its unique feature of flowering profusely without leaves. The tree is significant in showering every now and then around half the number of its flowers on the ground as are on the tree which is the choicest feast for the wild animals.
The five bright orange silky petals are encased in a large leaflet crown in green colour with a profuse number of anthers in yellow-pinkish colour topped by black heads. The leaves shed in January and the tree is completely bare in February and new flowers appear in March.
Orange colour is a combination of red and yellow signifying flamboyance of the red and happiness of the yellow, keeping everyone happy during its bloom and prompting them to act.
Like most other trees it also has some medicinal properties. People use different parts of the tree for treatment of stomach disorders. It works as a stimulant.
The green crown of the flower is used to make a dish which is very tasty and works as a medicine.
To end the season of flowering, a woody capsule opens up to release balls of silky fibres which are very soft and weightless and travel quite a distance in the wind. People collect this silky fibre to make pillows.