Kapok Tree
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Kapok Tree
aturalized Photo: Aarti Khale
Common name: Kapok, Ceiba, White Silk-Cotton Tree • Hindi: Safed semal सफ़ेद सेमल • Manipuri: মোৰেহ তেৰা Moreh Tera • Malayalam: Pannimaram • Tamil: Pancu • Telugu: Tellaburaga • Marathi: Samali • Kannada: ಬಿಳಿಬೂರಗ Bili booraga, ಬಿಳಿಬೂರುಗ Bili booruga • Sanskrit: Kutashalmali • Bengali: শ্ৱেত সিমল Shwet Simul • Mizo: Japan-pang
Botanical name: Ceiba pentandra    Family: Malvaceae (Mallow family)

Photo: Aarti Khale
Kapok tree is an emergent tree of the tropical rainforests, and is often described as majestic. It can grow to a height of 150 feet or more, towering over other trees in the rainforest. Originally a native to South America it now has spread to the primary rainforests of West Africa, and the Southeast Asia. The straight trunks are cylindrical, smooth and gray in color, and can reach a diameter of 9 feet. The wood is a pinkish white to ashy brown in color, with a straight grain. The branches grow in horizontal tiers, and spread widely. The crown has an open umbrella shape. Many plants and animals grow and live in the branches of the kapok tree. Birds nest in it, and mammals use the huge branches as highways. Frogs breed in the pools of water that collect in the bromeliads. The leaves are palmate and compound. The 5-9 leaflets are 7-8 cm long and 1-3.5 cm wide. Flowers usually open before the leaves appear, and are clustered on small, new branches. The 5 petals of a flower are about 2.5 cm long and are a creamy white or pale pink in color. Their odor is unpleasan, but is probably meant to attract the bats that pollinate them. The brown seeds are round like peas and are found in pods.

Identification credit: Tabish Photographed in Maharashtra.

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