Blowing in the wind: silk cotton in Delhi


Every 12 months, simply when examination time was peaking and the college session coming to a detailed, I might see, alongside avenues, a leafless tree with vibrant clusters of crimson flowers. The baby in me simply reveled in their magnificence, of the waxy, fallen leaves and naked ashen branches, and it was solely a lot later, when my curiosity in nature was piqued that I began attempting to establish bushes in Delhi.

At each nook and nook of the metropolis, there lies an imposing tall dry deciduous tree popularly known as the Semal (additionally known as the silk cotton tree, the cotton tree, Bombax, Indian Kapok, Shembal). In February, the Semal bares most of its leaves and is stuffed with clusters of huge crimson flowers with 5 petals on every of them.

The tree has a silvery bark with the decrease sections coated with conical prickles to maybe deter animals from coming too shut. It fashions compound leaves (a leaf consisting of a number of or many distinct leaflets joined to a single stem) with about 5 pointy leaflets (typically six or seven).

Their fruits resemble woody capsules which ripen and cut up open in May, bursting open with the intense solar, to launch silky fibres and seeds into the air, solely to be propagated by means of wind pollination.

These fibres, although lovely, should not nice for individuals who have bronchial asthma and different respiratory situations. Semal is kind of drought-hardy, and thrives in dry deciduous and moist areas, together with the forests, throughout India, however not in arid zones.

The silk cotton from fruits are sometimes collected to stuff pillows and quilts and accumulating rights from bushes are sometimes auctioned in Delhi. Semal is understood for its decorative worth, however its bark and roots are typically used as a tonic and stimulant in conventional drugs practices. A gummy substance collected from the stem is alleged to be an aphrodisiac and likewise used to deal with abdomen problems, says environmentalist Pradip Krishen, in his e-book Trees of Delhi.

Ecologically, the tree performs an vital function in attracting a number of creatures like birds, butterflies, bees, and spiders. The flowers should not solely a success amongst nectar-sipping creatures like the Purple Sunbird and bees, but additionally with frugivorous (fruit-eating) birds like the Coppersmith Barbet. The Indian Grey Hornbill typically makes use of the prime branches of the tree as a perch to name out to mates.

Since there are such a lot of bugs drawn to the flowers of the Semal, Crab Spiders camouflage themselves in the open petals, mendacity in wait to pounce on their unlucky prey. In the early morning, a flock of Yellow-footed Green Pigeons might sit atop, to bask in the solar. These inter-dependencies make Nature what it’s — a collection of connections constructed over time.

You can see the Semal in areas like Hauz Khas, Lodhi Road and a number of other different elements of the metropolis, typically dropping on vehicles and streets, overlaying them in a deep crimson mess.

They face upwards, so they tend of retaining rainwater fall with a heavy plop. These are the wonders of watching a tree unravel its magic.

The author is the founding father of NINOX – Owl About Nature, a nature-awareness initiative. He is the Delhi-NCR reviewer for Ebird, a Cornell University initiative, monitoring uncommon sightings of birds. He previously led a programme of WWF India.

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