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Valentine.gr  

August 2010

Did you know that the common name Cannoball tree of the plant Couroupita guianensis is derived from its massive fruit nuts which resemble rusty cannon balls?

Cannonball Tree (Couroupita guianensis) (flowers and fruits)  

Cannonball Tree - Couroupita guianensis

Couroupita guianensis, whose common names include Ayahuma and the Cannonball Tree, is an evergreen tree allied to the Brazil Nut (Bertholletia excelsa), and is native to tropical northern South America and to the southern Caribbean. In India it is growing for the past two or three thousand years at least, as attested by textual records, hence it is possible that it was native to India also. It's part of the family Lecythidaceae and grows up to 35m in height.

The Cannonball Tree is so-called because of its brown cannon ball-like fruits. The majority of these trees outside their natural environment have been planted as a botanical curiosity, as they grow very large, distinctive flowers. Its flowers are orange, scarlet and pink in color, and form large bunches measuring up to 3 m in length. They produce large spherical and woody fruits ranging from 15 to 24 cm in diameter, containing up to 200 or 300 seeds apiece.

The Cannon ball tree blooms and bears fruit simultaneously. The exotic red flowers smell like expensive perfume and bloom for only one day each. In Asia, the flowers are a symbol of wealth. The Cannonball Tree was given its species name Coroupita Guianensis by the French Botanist J.F. Aublet in 1755. The Cannonball tree is native to the tropical forests of Northeastern South America, especially the Amazon Basin. The Cannonball tree is known as Ayahuma (head of spirit) in this part of the world. Among the shamans of the Amazon, the tree is believed to provide protection against the evil spirits. The English name is derived from the massive fruit nuts which resemble rusty cannon balls. Thanks to its beauty, the tree has spread widely all over the world. The Cannonball tree is planted in gardens elsewhere in the tropics such as in India and Thailand. In India, it was introduced two to three thousand years back, or may be it was native to India. It is considered as the holy tree of Shiva and called Naga Linga in India. This big tree can grow 35 m (115 ft) tall and achieve an 80 cm trunk diameter. The tree is mainly grown for its beauty, but the soft, light-colored wood is also utilized to manufacture furniture.

The Cannonball Tree flowers do not have nectar, so these flowers are mainly visited by bees in search of pollen; outside the native range of habitat, carpenter bees are considered to be the principal pollinators. Both the fruit and the flower grow from stalks which sprout from the trunk of the tree. The Cannonball Tree flowers are found on thick tangled extrusions that grow on the trunk of the tree; these are found just below the foliage branches. The extrusions however, can range from two to six feet in length. The flowers are attached to an upwardly bent, white fleshy disk. The flowers have six petals, which are large, orange-red, and strongly perfumed. In pollination, fertile stamens can be found in a ring around reduced style and stamens. The sterile pollen is located in the anthers. As a bee enters to pollinate the flower, its back rubs against the ring with fertile pollen; this allows the bee to carry the fertile pollen to another flower. The differences in the pollen was noticed by a French Botanist in 1825. This discovery was made by Antoine Porteau. The differences in the pollen are as follows: the pollen of the ring stamens is fertile, while the hood pollen is sterile.

The fruits and the flowers burst straight from the trunk and the old trees have the whole lower part of the trunk covered. The cannon ball Ėlike fruits can be up to 20 cm. They ripen for approximately nine months and then fall to the ground, often popping broken and causing the sound of a small explosion.  When reacting with air, the fruit flesh turns bluish-green and smells unpleasant and fermented. The flesh is edible for animals and for the Shamans of the Amazon, this powerful nourishment is a part of their diet. For other people the fruit can even be poisonous and might cause a serious allergic reaction. Individual seeds within the "ball" are coated with hair, which is thought to protect the seed when it is ingested and may also help in the passage of the seed through the intestines. The hard fruit shell is used as containers or ornaments. Like coconut palms, the trees should not be planted near paths or near traffic-filled areas, as the heavy nut is known to fall without notice.

The trees are grown extensively in Shiva temples in India. In Hindi it is called Shiv Kamal. It is called the Nagalingam tree in Tamil. In Bengali, it is called Nagkeshar. The flowers are called Shivalinga flowers in Hindi; Nagalinga Pushpa in Kannada; Nagamalli flowers or Mallikarjuna flowers in Telugu. Hindus revere it as a sacred tree because the petals of the flower resembles the hood of Naga, a sacred snake, protecting a Shiva Lingam, the stigma. In Sri Lanka, Thailand and other Buddhist countries the tree is often planted at Buddhist temples. It is here mistaken as the Sala tree, Shorea robusta, the tree under which the Buddha passed away and under which the previous Buddha Vessabhu attained enlightement.

The Cannon ball tree possesses antibiotic, antifungal, antiseptic and analgesic qualities. The trees are used to cure colds and stomach aches. The juice made from the leaves is used to cure skin diseases, and the Shamans of South America have even used tree parts for treating malaria. The inside of the fruit can disinfect wounds and young leaves ease toothache.

Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Couroupita_guianensis
http://www.forestgeneration.com/cannonball-tree.html

 

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Silver Tree - Leucadendron argenteum
Buffaloberry - Shepherdia argentea
Himalayan Honeysuckle - Leycesteria formosa
Raisin Tree - Hovenia dulcis
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Caesalpinia - Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Welwitschia - Welwitschia mirabilis
Saguaro - Carnegiea gigantea
Schisandra - Schisandra chinensis
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Tamarind - Tamarindus indica
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