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Couroupita guianensis

Couroupita guianensis, whose common name is 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. It's part of the family Lecythidaceae and grows up to 25m 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 Cannonball Tree was given its species name Coroupita Guianensis by the French Botanist J.F. Aublet in 1755.


The Cannonball tree is the most common in neotropical forests, especially in the Amazon Basin. It is native to Guiana in South America.The cannonball tree can be found in India also, where it is referred to as Shiv Kamal.

Flowers and pollination

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.

Fruits and dispersal

The tree gets its common name from the large, spherical fruits it produces. The fruit falls from the tree and cracks open when it hits the ground when mature, often causing the sound of a small explosion. The fruit emits an unpleasant aroma when exposed to the air. 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. 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. It is called the 'Nagalingam' tree in Tamil. The flowers are called 'Shivalinga flowers', 'Nagalinga Pushpa' in Kannada, 'Nagamalli flowers' or 'Mallikarjuna flowers' in Telugu. It is considered a sacred tree among Hindus because the flower resembles a nagam or a sacred snake on the central large shiva lingam and numerous shivalingams around. In Bengali, it is called 'Nagkeshar'.

It looks like the hood of Naga the snake, and the inner part of it contains the lone female part, stigma, sitting inside, as if protected by this hood of Naga.

The Stigma is small in size and it looks similar to a Shiva Linga, with a small pedestal (Ovary of Stigma) and a small linga (Stylum+Stigma combined).

Medicinal Uses

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.

External links

Couroupita guianensis on The Lecythidaceae Pages

[*] on mukthabalaga.wordpress.com

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Couroupita guianensis

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