Couroupita guianensis: Cannonball tree

Family: Lecythidaceae
Common name: Cannonball tree, Nagalinga

Cannonball trees are fascinating and unique because of their beautiful pink and yellow flowers; and large, brown, rounded, cannonball-like fruits. They are native to the tropical regions of Central and South America though they have now gained popularity among gardeners and enthusiasts worldwide.

Cannonball trees are sturdy and can grow up to 35 meters in height. The bark is dark brown and deeply fissured, providing a striking contrast against the surrounding foliage.

The leaves of this tree are large and compound, typically measuring around 10-30 cm in length. They are arranged in an alternate pattern along the branches, forming a lush canopy.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Cannonball tree is its exquisite flowers. These flowers are pink or light yellow in color, large, vibrant, and emit a pleasant fragrance, especially in the night.

They are bell-shaped, with 6 distinct petals that are pink or deep pink towards the base and light yellow towards the tips. They have 2 sets of stamens, larger tubular ones towards the outside which have sterile pollen and smaller white ones towards the inside which have fertile pollen.

The flowers bloom abundantly on the trunk, as well as on thick branches, creating a spectacular display, sometimes covering the entire tree, as many as a 1000 flowers at a time.

The fruits of Cannonball tree are also quite distinctive. They are large, brown, round, and woody, measuring about 15-25 cm in diameter. When the fruits ripen, they fall to the ground and split open, revealing clusters of shiny, marble-sized seeds surrounded by a white pulp.

The pulp has a strong, unpleasant odor and is hence not eaten by human beings. Though there are small animals and birds that relish the pulp of the fruit along with its seeds.

Cannonball trees thrive in tropical climates with rich, well-draining soil, and require full to partial sun exposure for optimal growth. Regular watering is necessary, especially during dry periods, to keep the soil moist.

Regular pruning and fertilization helps the tree during the initial growth stages. Once it’s established in the soil, the Cannonball tree needs very little care and attention.

In traditional medicine, this tree has several medicinal uses. Various parts of the tree, including the leaves, bark, and fruit, are used to treatment ailments like pain, inflammation common cold, stomach pain, wounds, malaria, tumors, hypertension, and a variety of skin conditions.

The flowers are used in making perfumes and cosmetics. Hard shell of the fruits are sometimes used to make small containers. The wood is not very hard, and cannot be used for making furniture or durable implements.

Propagation of Cannonball tree can be done through seeds or stem cuttings. When using seeds, it is recommended to soak them in water for 24 hours before planting to enhance germination. The seeds should be sown in well-draining soil and kept in a warm, humid environment. Germination typically occurs within a few weeks. Stem cuttings can also be taken from mature trees and rooted in a suitable rooting medium.