Simmal/ Cotton tree (Bombax ceiba) is a tropical tree with a straight tall trunk and can grow to a height of 3o metres. The leaves are deciduous in winter. The tree grows rapidly during the monsoon and spring. The 5 petalled beautiful red flowers bloom in the spring (March/April) before the new foliage. The flower was an ingredient in the Chinese herb tea. The fruit is the size of a ping-pong ball and contains white cotton like fibres called ‘kapok’. The cotton fibers of this tree can be seen floating in the wind around the time of early may. Kapok is used for filling pillows, quilts, sofas etc. The fruit is cooked and eaten and also pickled. The trunk bears spikes to deter attacks by animals. The wood is soft and is used for making plywood, matchsticks etc. The wood is durable under water and is used to make canoes and boats.
The Guru Granth Sahib makes a reference to the Simmal tree that stands tall and proud but disappoints the birds with its tasteless fruit, nauseating flowers and useless leaves!