Couroupita guianensis or commonly known as Cannonball tree is from family Lecythidaceae native to the southern Caribbean and northern parts of South America but has been widely planted in different tropical and semi-tropical areas around the world. It is popularly known as Cannonball tree because the fruits are like cannonballs, round and heavy and when falling to the ground they produce an explosive noise. This species is cultivated in many tropical areas throughout the world because of its elegant, colourful fragrant flowers and large, interesting fruits.
It is a deciduous tree with a dense crown. This species can grow up to 35 m tall with diameter up to 50 cm. The leaves occur in clusters at the end of branches and can be up to 30 cm long. The flowers are large, to 80 cm long, pink to reddish in colour and mainly pollinated by carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.) and bats. The fruit are globose, large with diameter up to 25 cm, woody and brown in colour. Each fruits contains about 200- 300 seeds, soft-red in colour which turns bluish-green when exposed to air. The fruit produced an unpleasant smell when ripe and open. In its natural habitat, the fruit pulp is eaten by wild animals like pecaries. Both the fruit and flowers actually grows on a woody extrusion that grows directly from the trunk.
This species is among the most common ornamental tree that can be found planted in many botanical gardens around the world. The showy fruits and flowers become the main attractions and this tree is grown for its interesting botanical features and also as an ornamental plant. Traditionally extracts from tree’s tissues are used by Amazonian Shamans to treat malaria, as they have antiseptic and antifungal properties.
Syazwani Binti Azeman
Perdana Botanical Garden