Located in the middle of Kuching city, right in front of the Merdeka Palace Hotel at Plaza Merdeka, the Cotton Silk Tree, aka Pokok Kapok in local language, is one famous landmark of the capital of Sarawak. Every time it blossoms, the whole Kuching environment changes for a while, as if the city going through an autumn season. The white flowers and subsequent cotton that fall from the tree looks like snow, hence the nickname by which it is know: the snow tree.
According to history, the tree is believed to have been there for more than one hundred years. The Cotton Silk tree breed, or “Ceiba Pentandra” in scientific language, is believed to have been brought from South America to be grown in Padang Merdeka, formerly known as Central Field, during the reign of the Brooke family. Because of its age, the Sarawak Government has even listed the tree as “the heritage tree of Kuching”. The deciduous and thorny tree reaches 27.4 meters of height and in 2008 it was estimated to be worth more than 1 million Malaysian Ringgit (approximately 300.000 US$).
What is unique about this tree is that it only blossoms once in every two to three years. Due to this, the local people from Kuching would never miss the appointment to take pictures for good memories and to pick its flowers. According to local 44 years old Kho Yang Ping, the tree is so historical for her as it was there when she was just a little kid, yet during those times she never knew how wonderful it can feel to be near that tree, and how important it is to preserve the environment. “Those who come to Kuching on holiday should pay a visit to this amazing tree, and perhaps if they are lucky they can see cotton flying down from the tree as if it was snow”, she added.
Marianne Renee, a 68 years old tourist from Melbourne, Australia, said she was totally mesmerized when she saw the tree from her hotel room window in the morning. “We do not have this kind of tree where I am from; the flying cotton reminded me of my mother.” She told me she had to come down from her hotel room just to see the snow tree from nearby and to take a few pictures of it.
Kuching Cotton Silk Tree really is a special tree, and not because of its monetary value, its age or its historical significance, but for its sentimental connotation and for the happiness it brings to people every time it is in bloom. So, if you have never visited Kuching or next time you are in town, take advantage and pay a visit to this landmark of the city and seal the wonderful moment with a camera shot.