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Two of my favourite native northern Oz winter flowering trees - Cochospe...

bernieh

By bernieh

38 comments


Even though spring has just begun I thought I would share photos of two great native northern Oz trees that flower during our very dry winter. Every winter I am always impressed by the brilliant splashes of golden yellow which the Kapok Tree gives to the otherwise drab hillsides and eucalypt woodlands around here.

In Australia there are two true native Kapoks. There is our local species and another which looks almost identical (except for leaf shape), which is very common in Kakadu National Park and is called Cochlospermum fraseri.

Meet our local native Kapok Tree – Cochlospermum gillivraei (Family Cochlospermaceae) – a common sight on rocky slopes and vine thicket gullies (around my city of Townsville) and of course in street and park plantings.

Our Kapok loses all its leaves before flowering, which makes the flowering more obvious. The large yellow flowers have 5 petals to 4 cm long, and numerous stamens.

The flowers themselves are edible raw and are supposedly quite pleasant. They have been compared to marshmallows!! Although more than 90% water, they are surprisingly high in Vitamin C! The tap root of young plants is also edible when roasted and has moderate levels of most nutrients.

After the yellow flowers are pollinated, large, globular, green, papery fruit develop (from 6 to 9 cms long), which eventually turns brown and splits along the seams to reveal 2 contrasting layers and release numerous seeds covered by long hairs. The small black seeds are woven in a dense mat of fine silky hairs. This material is known as ‘kapok’.

Another brilliant winter blooming tree is our native Silk Cotton Tree with its flamboyant scarlet blooms (which is also sometimes known as Red Kapok).

The Silk Cotton tree, Bombax ceiba leiocarpum (family Bombacaceae), is a type of native cotton tree that is found here in northern Australia. It grows along the northern rivers and streams in the bush and also in coastal vine thickets around the sand dunes near the coast.

It can also be found in many gardens here as well as in our local parks and green areas.

It has a thorny trunk and after shedding its leaves in the dry season, large waxy bright red flowers emerge. These are around 10 cms across and they hang singly or in small clusters at the end of the branches. These flowers are fragrant and in days gone by the blooms were collected once they had fallen and were used as table decoration.

The bombax fruit is a large, oblong woody capsule that splits when ripe. This allows the seeds to float out in their woolly coats.

The taproot is edible and is an example of Australian indigenous food. The fleshy roots of young bombax trees can be roasted and eaten like carrots.

Hope you enjoyed this introduction to two of my favourite winter blooming native trees. They provide quite spectacular colour in the middle of our long ‘dry’ season.

More blog posts by bernieh

Previous post: My Garden in flower - Winter 2009

Next post: Duststorm hits downunder.



Comments

 

Great blog.
I love to see what's flowering there Bernie :)

15 Sep, 2009

 

Fantastic, Bernieh! The only 'kapok' we have over here, as far as I'm aware, is the stuffing used for soft toys, but it's probably not natural any more, but made from synthetics. Is it used for stuffing toys? Typically, we were all brought up on the word, as in: 'Oh, it's got kapok stuffing' but were never told that kapok was actually a tree - and we never thought to ask, to us it was just a word used by grown-ups!
How lovely to actually SEE the trees, and aren't they lovely?
Excellent, informative blog.
;-)

15 Sep, 2009

 

Very interesting ,it is fasinating to hear about trees and flowers like these that we would never now exsited let alone see .
Brilliant blog

15 Sep, 2009

 

Thanks Louise - these two great trees are a fantastic sight when you spot them growing naturally in the bush.

15 Sep, 2009

 

Bscott, neither of these trees are grown commercially for their kapok but I know that previous generations did use it to make very simple stuffed toys for children - I'm talking about back during the early 1900's. I've seen stuffed dolls in a museum here that were stuffed with the local kapok.

15 Sep, 2009

 

Thanks Mushy. That's what's so great about this site - learning about fascinating plants around the world.

15 Sep, 2009

 

I suppose they just continued to call it kapok, even when it wasn't, really! How fascinating....I've always wondered what kapok WAS, and now, thanks to you, I DO!
Thank you, Bernieh, I love learning things!
;-)

15 Sep, 2009

 

Thanks Bernieh.its great to see the trees and plants from your part of the world,,the one with the red flowers is fabulous..........

15 Sep, 2009

 

Brilliant blog Berneih very interesting, as kapok would that be used to stuff soft toys then? You mentioned eucalyptus do you live near the blue mountains at all?

15 Sep, 2009

 

This is an interesting blog with good pics.
If I could put blogs on my favourites, this would be there :o)

15 Sep, 2009

 

They are really fascinating . No wonder you like them.

15 Sep, 2009

 

Very interesting Blog. Photos add to the theme.

15 Sep, 2009

 

great blog. i love the flowers. ;-))

15 Sep, 2009

 

Excellent pics and interesting info thanks Berieh, your blogs are always worth a read!

15 Sep, 2009

 

Thanks Bernieh enjoyed your blog and photos

15 Sep, 2009

 

Great blog BH as always with wonderful pics.

Must be lovely to look at with the cracking colours they produce....

15 Sep, 2009

 

Thanks everyone for your kind comments.

Lincslass - the red 'kapok' really makes an impact in the dry bushland.

Bobg - I live up in north Queensland while the Blue Mountains are about 1700 kilometres (well over 1000 miles) away down in New South Wales. The kapok in these trees was never used commercially, but the old timers used it when they made home-made toys during the early part of the 1900's.

TT - very kind, glad you enjoyed it.

Thanks Hywel, Theoldgunner, Sandra, Indy, Clarice and Oddbillie - it's always great to learn about the great variety of plants from all our different parts of the world. I certainly enjoy learning about all the things that grow over there.

15 Sep, 2009

 

Super pictures and informative as ever Bernieh lovely to see Kapok for real it was just a word used for filling/stuffing toys etc. but I think our Kapok was actually cotton waste not your lovely fluffy stuff!!
very pretty flowers the yellow ones sound yummy!

15 Sep, 2009

 

Thanks Neellan - I'm not exactly sure what the commercial kapok is/was but definitely not these trees as they only grow around northern Oz. I've never tried those yellow flowers but our Aboriginal people up here recommend them!!

15 Sep, 2009

 

Fantastic trees, Bernieh, I just love them both! :-) Shame we don't have anything like them here in the UK. :-(

Hawthorn or Mayflower (Crataegus monogyna) is probably the best flowering/fruiting tree in the UK. Not sure if it's a native but it does grow extremely well all over the UK.

The flowers & fruits are much smaller than on your trees but the countryside really lights up at the end of April & most of May & a few trees even into June.

15 Sep, 2009

 

Always enjoy your photos Bernieh.. you must have a good camera!

16 Sep, 2009

 

Thanks Pip c ... my camera's not bad - one of the Canon powershot models and it serves rather well. Wouldn't mind having one that did better close-ups though - can't have everything!

16 Sep, 2009

 

I just wandered through your photos and love your flowers! Your pictures are enviable. My husband bought me a Sony Cyber-shot last year, and I've become a fanatic; hope you can teach me a few things about flowers and photos.

16 Sep, 2009

 

Thanks so much Hmhb - I think you'll find that you will learn lots about both flowers and taking photos here on this site. I've just learnt through lots of practice ... at both!

17 Sep, 2009

 

Your Kapok trees reminded me of the cotton fields I was mesmorized with as a child, next to my grandparents in southern California..very much alike as far as the fruit but no bright flowers like your trees have ..or.. I was not there when they bloomed.....and they only grew about 2 or 3 feet high...Love this blog..great info Bernieh...

17 Sep, 2009

 

Thanks Catfinch - you're right... the kapok pods look so like cotton. Such an interesting thing.

17 Sep, 2009

 

Great blog and stunning pictures Bernie. I really enjoy seeing Aussie plants growing in there native enviroment.We have a Bombax growing here at Kew in one of the glasshouses, but your specimen is much bigger!

20 Sep, 2009

 

Thanks Rbtkew - the bombax always look spectacular when in bloom and even though this one is rather large ... it's not the largest around my area. The larger ones though were not looking their best though ... as they were coming to the end of their flowering time. They really stand out during the long long dry!

21 Sep, 2009

 

Beautiful pictures Berniah!I like the Kapok one .
I have a Canon Powershot 640 camera.I'm saving up for some attachments.It's fun capturing Nature at it's best isn't it?

21 Sep, 2009

 

I've certainly been having a lot of fun using my camera since joining this site ... now I'm seeing things out in nature as if I'm looking through the camera lens!!!

22 Sep, 2009

 

I quite understand you, Bernieh, the same happens to me! Now I have found an "outlet" for all the photos I have on my computer of my flowers. Lol!

I have many photos of the flowering trees around town, in the streets & in private gardens. There are many flowering trees here in the spring but there are no "wild" flowering trees. They have all been planted by man & those that man didn't plant have no showy flowers.

24 Sep, 2009

 

Bernieh, enjoyed being introduced to your trees; in the last photo, the little woody capsules with the seeds looks a lot like our cotton. Love that bright red!!

24 Sep, 2009

 

Balcony - yes we're lucky there's still so many native trees over here and so many of them that are quite showy. It's always a pleasure to see them flowering in their native environments.

27 Sep, 2009

 

Hmhb - glad you enjoyed seeing some of our northern Oz natives and you're right ... that capsule does look so much like cotton.

27 Sep, 2009

 

Fascinating Bernieh!Really bright and beautiful!

1 Oct, 2009

 

Thanks Arlene - glad you enjoyed the information and photos of these two favourites.

1 Oct, 2009

 

Bernie I have 3 acres of rainforest , only enough was cleared to build a home and garage , most is still native rainforest trees. I have Bombax ceiba growing in the forest but out trees are 60ft tall ,the only time the flowers are seen is when they fall to the forest floor. The yellow kapok trees you showed grow all around the north and on the offshore Islands but not in the rainforest.

15 Oct, 2009

 

Those Bombax ceiba's are just amazing - there's a neighbour down on the flats who has a row of about six of them and I just love driving past at different times of the year seeing them leafless and covered in pods, or full of brilliant red blooms. Beautiful sight. Of course they're not 60 feet tall - I've never seen one that tall ... the ones around here would maybe reach 30 feet.
The yellow kapoks are scattered throughout the bushland all around my home - I just loving seeing the yellow flowers suddenly appear on the ridge opposite our house ... great splashes of yellow in the dry bush... and you know it's spring!

15 Oct, 2009

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