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Cannon balls on trees?

The flowers of the Cannon Ball Tree are heavily scented and appear in shades of red, yellow, pink, cream and white



The Cannon Ball Tree is called Nagalingam in Tamil

COUROUPITA GUIANENSIS, a native of Guiana (Tropical America) belongs to the family Lecythidaceae. Popularly known as Nagalingam to the Tamils, the flower has stamens and ovary resembling a many-headed cobra brooding over a lingam and is, therefore, offered to deities during worship. The tree appears weird - like a tangle of long, woody branches, bearing fleshy flowers. Massive, globular fruits cascade from the trunk (Cauliflory).

Riot of colour

The flowers are heavily scented and appear in a riot of colour — red, yellow, pink, cream and white. The six, thick petals are concave and within them lies a circle of barren stamens without pollen and fertile stamens with pollen. This odd arrangement ensures self-pollination if insect pollination fails.



Massive globular fruits cascade from the trunk

The globose fruits resemble big, rusty cannon balls and hence the popular name `Cannon Ball Tree.' The fruits take eight to nine months to ripen and contain a mass of sour-smelling yellow pulp which is acrid.

The IUCN Red Data book lists the Cannon Ball Tree in the Lower Risk (LR) category of endangered plants.

PAULINE DEBORAH & RIDLING WALLER

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