Salmalia malabarica (DC.) Schott & Endl.
Tall trees, trunk usually unbranched up to considerable height. Bark grey, covered with hard small conical prickles. usually disappearing with age. Petiole 10-30 cm long, pulvinate at the base; stipules triangular, 5-10 mm x 4 mm with hairy margin, caducous. Leaflets 5-7, glabrous, entire, elliptic-lanceolate, acuminate, attenuate at base, more or less leathery, unequal, 5-20 cm x 2-8 cm; petiolule 1-3 cm long. Inflorescence many fascicles of 1-4 flowers borne, at or near the end of branches. Flowers large, showy, red (occasionally yellow or white); pedicel thick, 2-2.5 cm long. Calyx 3-lobed (rarely 2-lobed), cup-shaped, 3.5-4 cm long, smooth outside, densely silky within. Petals twisted in bud, stellate tomentose outside, sparcely pubescent inside, elliptic-oblong, usually recurved, 8-11 cm x 4-5 cm. Stamens c. 75, united at base in 6 phalanges, each of 11-15 stamens, the inner-most phalange surrounding the pistil is composed of 15 stamens of which 5-innermost are the largest and forked; filaments 3.5-6 cm long, pink, somewhat tomentose, flattened at base; anthers long, afterward twisted, violet. Ovary conical, green, covered with silky hairs, 0.5-1.2 cm long; style simple, 5.9-6.5 cm long; stigmas 5, filiform. 5-6 mm long. Capsule 10-12.5 cm long; oblong, woody, 5 valved, profusely to finely tomentose. Seeds brown, smooth, obovid, 6 mm long, embeded in silky white wool.
Holotype: Rheede, Hort.Ind. Mal.,111.tab.52.1682.
Distribution: Commonly cultivated as a roadside and garden tree in Pakistan. Wild in subhimalayan tract from Hazara to eastword, up to 3500 ft., India, Ceylon, S,E.Asia, China, Australia (Queenslands North Australia) and China (Yunnan).
In adopting Bombax Ceiba L. I have followed A. Robyns (Taxon 10:160. 1961; Bull.Jard.Bot.Brux. 33:88.1963). The typification of Bombax ceiba L. will have to be based on the interpretation of the description given by Linnaeus in Species Plantarum 311.1753. His subsequent interpretation in Species Plantarum, ed. 2.959.1763 which indicates a change in Linnaeus views can not be accepted to be the sole basis of the typification of this taxon. It is obvious that under Bombax ceiba L., Linnaeus (1753) had mixed the two taxa one belonging to the New World and the other belonging to the Old World. The specific epithet ‘ceiba’ is clearly of American origin thus indicating the fact that Linnaeus was describing a New World taxon. This is also substantiated by the reference to Bauhin's Pinax. The reference to persistent calyx in Genera Plantarum is likely to refer to Bombax religiosa L. (Cochlosperumum religiosum) as pointed out by A. Robyns (Taxon 10:160. 1961). On the other hand, references to Flora Zeylanica and to Rheede’s Hortus Indicus Malabaricus, 111. tab. 52.1682 clearly indicate old world origin of this taxon. In the absence of any specimen (Robyns in Taxon 10:161.1961) or any illustration which could clearly suggests as to what Linnaeus meant while describing this taxon, if it is accepted to be of New World taxon, the illustration of Rheede (Hort.Ind.Mal.111.tab.52.1682) accepted by Robyns (11.cc.) stands out clearly in view of clarity and exquisiteness.
Nicolson & Saldanha (Fl.Hassan Dist. 143.1976) incidently have wrongly stated twice, once in the generic description and subsequently in the note that the calyx is persistent in the Asiatic material.
Silk cotton tree yields a brown astringent gum like substance known as Mocharas. Bark and gum is utilized in local medicines. Good fibre suitable for cordage is also obtained from the inner bark of the tree. Plants are used for making light packing boxes and in fisherman floats. In Punjab it is used for making water conduits, troughs and bridges, the timber is also utilized in match industry. Buds are used as vegetables. Cotton is used in stuffing pillows and cushions.