Bombax ceiba L., Sp. Pl. 511 (1753)

Species is named after the genus Ceiba which in turn is named after its local 'Arawak' (Indian tribe in the Guianas) name.

Bombax aculeatum L.
Bombax ceiba Burm.f.
Bombax ceiba var. leiocarpum Robyns
Bombax heptaphyllum Cav.
Bombax malabaricum DC.
Bombax thorelii Gagnep.
Bombax tussacii Urb.
Gossampinus malabarica Merr.
Gossampinus rubra Buch.-Ham.
Gossampinus thorelii Bakh.
Melaleuca grandiflora Blanco
Salmalia malabarica (DC.) Schott & Endl

Trees to 25 m tall; trunk buttressed, usually very spiny on young trees; bark gray-white; branches spreading. Stipules minute; petiole 10-20 cm; leaflets 5-7, petiolules 1.5-4 cm; blades oblong to oblong-lanceolate, 10-16 x 3.5-5.5 cm, glabrous, lateral veins 15-17 on each side of midrib, ascending, base broad or tapering, apex acuminate. Flowers solitary, terminal, ca. 10 cm in diam. Calyx cup-shaped, 2-3(-4.5) cm, abaxially glabrous, adaxially densely yellowish sericeous, calyx lobes 3-5, semi-orbicular, ca. 1.5 x 2.3 cm. Petals usually red, sometimes orange-red, obovate-oblong, 8-10 x 3-4 cm, fleshy, both surfaces stellate puberulent, but sparser adaxially. Filament tube short, filaments thicker at base than apex, outer series in 5 fascicles, each with more than 10 stamens, inner series bifid, central filaments with 10 stamens shorter, entire. Capsule ellipsoid, 10-15 x 4.5-5 cm, densely gray-white villous and stellate puberulent. Seeds many, obovate, smooth. [from Flora of China]

Hot dry river valleys, savanna; below 1400 m. The tree is deciduous and loses its leaves in the dry season. The flowers are very attractive to local wildlife, with many birds like the Japanese White-eye, a type of fruit eating bird, which often draws a hole in an unopened Bombax ceiba flower bud. Honey bees, and bumble bees are also attracted to the flowers to collect pollen and nectar. Because the flowers attract many insects, Crab Spiders can be occasionally found on a fully opened flower, hunting bees.

Formerly cultivated for its seed floss (kapok), which is of lower quality than that from Ceiba pentandra. The dry cores of the Bombax ceiba flower are an essential ingredient of the nam ngiao spicy noodle soup of the cuisine of Shan State and Northern Thailand, as well as the kaeng khae curry. It is widely planted in parks and on roadsides because of its beautiful red flowers.

From Sri Lanka, India, southern China and Taiwan to New Guinea.

Local names
China: Mu mian.