Red Silk Cotton Tree, Tree-cotton (Hibiscus Family)
Bombax ceiba (Malvaceae, formerly Bombacaceae)
Origin: Southern Tropical Asia
The stately Bombax, a monstrous blooming tree, is noticable throughout the year because of its thick trunk, which is often covered in spines of various sizes, especially in younger specimens. (As the trees age they tend to acquire a smoother bark.) Going completely deciduous in winter, they erupt in early spring with large, solitary red to orange flowers, creating one of the most striking displays the tropical garden has to offer.
After the bloom comes the fruit, football-shaped pods packed with seeds seated in a silk-like substance, which catch the wind and carry the next generation far out of the forest (cotton is also in the family Malvaceae.)
Selby has four Bombax ceiba trees on campus: one is in the parking lot of our Administration building; another is cascading over the Hudson Bayou in the southernmost parking lot; and two are in the main Gardens -- at the north end just west of the bromeliad garden (number 20 on our visitor map), and our "champion" by the gazebo on the lawn (number 13).
Text by David Troxell