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Rare tree found in UAE

posted on 30/03/2005: 5091 views

The Red Silk Cotton Tree, which naturally grows in the foothills in the northern parts of the subcontinent, has been found at two places in the UAE by Dr Reza Khan, Head of Dubai Municipality's Dubai Zoo, and a nature enthusiast. Dr Khan attributes the presence of the rare trees, which grow in climatic conditions completely at odds with those of the UAE, to human interest in nature.

According to Dr Khan, most of the trees seen in the parks, gardens and various golf and racing courses in the UAE are exotics barring the date palm and a few Ghaf trees.

"Even the most popular Neem or Azadirach and Lose or Indian Almond — the fruits of which are most liked by UAE locals — are also both exotic species and come from the Indian subcontinent,” he said. Dr Khan said that he found the two Red Silk Cotton Trees in full bloom in two different parts of the UAE.

"There is a single tree in Dubai Municipality's Garhoud Nursery, while the other is on the round about between Hilly and Buraimy, second round-about from Al Ain Fun City,” he said, adding that the flowers of the tree, at 7 to 8 cm across and about 10 cm in height, are probably the largest of the flowers of all plants grown, both naturally and artificially, in the UAE.

The Red Silk Cotton Tree comes from Indian subcontinent, where it is popularly known as Shimul or Semul, while its current scientific name is bombax ceiba. "Its other common name is Red Kapok," Dr Khan said, adding that its natural habitat stretches from Myanmar in the East all the way to Afghanistan in the West via Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

"The tree grows in low hills to foothill countries and the plain land bordering these. It is a massive 30-metre tall deciduous tree, has soft wood and its bark is dotted with large triangular spines,” he explained.

Towards the end of winter, Dr Khan said the branches of the tree soon become completely covered with red flowers after it has shed it leaves. "In the subcontinent many species of birds, including crows, squirrels, monkeys, civets and bats, and insects, visit the flowers for their nectar, helping cross-pollination in the process. In the UAE these natural agents are literally absent. That could be one reason it is not spreading naturally here,” he added.

Red Silk Cotton Tree is a good avenue and public garden tree and grows well in dry condition but needs watering in this country. When in spring the leafless trees are in full bloom the large red flowers create a spectacular look. (The Khaleej Times)


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