The 100-year-old silk cotton tree at the Aburi Gardens. INSET: A signage showing when the tree was planted
The 100-year-old silk cotton tree at the Aburi Gardens. INSET: A signage showing when the tree was planted

Ceiba Pentandra: Gordon Guggisberg tree turns 100 years

The Aburi Botanical Gardens (ABG) has marked the centenary anniversary of its second oldest tree, Ceiba Pentandra, commonly known as Silk Cotton.

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The majestic tree, known in local parlance as ‘Onyina’, was one of the initiatives executed by Sir Gordon Guggisberg, a colonial governor of the Gold Coast (now Ghana), which included the Takoradi Harbour, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, and Achimota School (College), which have been able to stand the test of time.

Planted on March 23, 1924, the Ceiba Pentandra has now become an iconic symbol of the country's rich history and cultural heritage over the last 100 years. This ancient tree has been a silent companion to countless picnics, strolls and moments of contemplation; its wisdom and endurance inspiring all who sit in its shade.

Its sturdy trunk and gnarled roots tell the story of a century of weathering storms and sunshine. Despite the passing of time, the Ceiba Pentandra remains a vibrant and thriving presence, its bright green leaves and showy flowers a delight to behold.

As a living legacy of the gardens' history, the Ceiba Pentandra continues to captivate and inspire all who visit.

Power of nature

The Curator (Manager) of ABG, Richard Fordson, in an interview with the Daily Graphic at Aburi in the Eastern Region on May 2, stated that the tree’s beauty and resilience was a true testament to the power of nature.

He said the previous Ceiba Pentandra named Lady Knutford lived for over 600 years before falling in July 2020. “The Lady Knutford, which remains you can see there, was part of the forest before the ABG was established in the 18th century and has been named after the wife of Lord Knutford, the then secretary of state for the colonial authority between 1887 and 1892 to commemorate her husband’s contribution.

“Given the lifespan of Lady Knutford, we are optimistic that the tree planted by Sir Guggisberg would go beyond 600 years,” Mr Fordson noted. He added that as the Ceiba Pentandra continues to thrive, it remains a beloved and historic symbol of the Aburi Botanical Gardens, inspiring future generations to appreciate and protect Ghana's natural beauty.

The Head of Lawn at the ABG, Emmanuel Quartey, said the Ceiba Pentandra was originally a tropical tree native to Central America and the Caribbean, northern South America, and West Africa.

He said as a multipurpose tree with various uses, its soft, fluffy seeds were used as a filling for pillows and mattresses, while its strong wood was used for furniture and construction.

“The tree's bark and leaves have medicinal properties, used to treat various ailments, including fever and inflammation.” “In addition, Ceiba Pentandra is a valuable resource for wildlife, providing food and shelter for numerous birds, insects and mammals. Its tall, spreading canopy also offers shade and shelter for humans, making it a popular choice for landscaping and reforestation efforts,” he added.

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