The silk-cotton tree, also known as ‘cay gao’ in Vietnamese, has been a significant landmark along the North-South journey through Pleiku for nearly 100 years. It holds countless memories for both locals and visitors.

During its flowering season, the old silk-cotton tree showcases vibrant red flowers, attracting numerous travelers who capture its beauty through photographs.

They call this magnificent tree in English by different names, such as Bombax Ceiba, Malabar silk-cotton tree, red cotton tree, or kapok.

A picture of the iconic almost a century-old red silk-cotton tree along National Highway 14 in Pleiku City, Gia Lai Province, located in Vietnam’s Central Highlands in 2015. Photo: T.B.Dung / Tuoi Tre

In 2015, when the National Highway 14 project was being implemented, there were plans to uproot the tree as it would have obstructed the road. However, the sentimental value attached to this ancient tree made the authorities reconsider their decision.

After reevaluating the situation, they redesigned the route and adjusted the road centerline to ensure the preservation of the silk-cotton tree.

A photograph of the almost a century-old red silk-cotton tree collapsing onto a dump truck in Pleiku City, Gia Lai Province, located in Vietnam’s Central Highlands on March 7, 2024. Photo: Le Hoa / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Duy, the owner of a nearby motel and coffee shop, noticed three years ago that the tree started to decline, showing signs of drying and losing branches.

Finally, on a Thursday afternoon, the tree succumbed, falling onto a dump truck nearby.

Urban environmental workers cleared the area and discovered severe decay within the trunk of the tree.

Duy plans to request permission from local authorities to purchase and replant another silk-cotton tree in the same location.

In response, local officials have promised to consult Pleiku City regarding this matter.