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Couroupita guianensis Aubl.

Family Name: Lecythidaceae
Synonyms: Lecythis bracteata, Pekea couroupita, Couratari pedicellaris
Common Name: Cannon Ball Tree, Castanha-de-Macaco, Sala Tree, Sa-lah, Nagalingam, Shiv Kamal, Buah Kanon, Luuk Puen, 炮弹树

Couroupita guianensis often known as Cannon Ball Tree produces fragrant inflorescences that last for a day. These inflorescences are borne on thick tangled branches produced from the trunk. At maturity, the fruit drops on the ground with a loud thud baring its seeds suspended in pulp. As opposed to the pleasant-smelling flowers, the fruits release a repugnant odour.

Full Sun: 6-8h Moderate Water Fragrant Ornamental Flowers Tree

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Species Summary

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Tree (Big (>30m), Medium (16m-30m))
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Oval
Maximum Height 20 m to 35 m
Maximum Plant Spread / Crown Width 9 m
Tree or Palm – Trunk Diameter 0.8 m

Biogeography

Native Distribution Costa Rica, Panama, French Guiana, Tropical South America
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Primary Rainforest)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Medium-sized tree, usually up to 25m tall under cultivation.
Trunk Up to 0.8m across, appearing more massive due to dense tangle of long dangling branchlets (up to 3m long) that emerge and cover lower trunk, especially in older trees. Bark greyish-brown, fissured.
Foliage Leaves smooth to slightly velvety with serrate and somewhat margins, simple, arranged spirally at ends of branches. Species is semi-deciduous, shedding its leaves around once to twice a year, usually in response to dry weather.
Flowers Complex nectarless structures, each consisting of 6 large and fleshy-waxy petals that are red to orange on the inside and yellow on the outside, a disk of numerous short and yellow ring-stamens (which produce fertile pollen) arranged around reduced styles and stamens, and a pink-white anemone-like structure of hood-stamens (which produce sterile pollen). Highly-fragrant, primarily pollinated by carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.) and bats (which consume the anthers and stamens, besides the sterile pollen). Mainly cross-pollinated but experiments that it is able to self-pollinate. Species is cauliflorous -- flowers are produced in racemes along woody extrusions emerging directly from trunk or large branches further up the tree. Flowers last only 1 day, but several are produced at any one time throughout the year.
Fruits Nuts large (20-24cm across), globose, with hard woody exocarp (shell), produced in clusters, taking some 18 months to attain maturity, and resembling rusty-brown cannonballs when ripe. Upper part of fruits crack open upon dropping to the ground, exposing 200-300 hairy seeds embedded in 6-segmented jelly-like pulp that oxidizes from white to bluish-green and emits an unpleasant fermented-like scent when exposed to air.
Habitat Tropical rainforests.
Cultivation Fuss-free tree. Prefers deep, moist and humus-rich soils. Provide regular water. Propagate by seeds from ripe fruits (although germination may be difficult), or woody stem cuttings. Handle with care, as flower pollen and fruit pulp may be allergenic or irritating to susceptible individuals.
Etymology Genus epithet 'Couroupita' is the Latinized form of the French Guiana vernacular name, Kouroupitoumou. Species epithet guianensis means 'of or from French Guiana (Guyana)', a reference to the plant's native distribution.
Ethnobotanical Uses Cultural / Religious ( Heritage Trees : There are two individuals of Couroupita guianensis listed as Heritage Trees in Singapore. To find out more about these trees, please visit the Heritage Tree Register.)
[Others]: Products: Hard shells of fruits used to make containers and utensils. Fragrant flowers used to scent perfumes and cosmetics. Timber: Soft, light-colored wood utilized to make furniture. Culture: Commonly planted near Hindu temples, regarded as sacred by Hindus because flowers resemble the Naga (hooded snake) of Lord Shiva. Flowers used in Hindu prayer, also used by Buddhist worshippers in Sri Lanka. Food: Fruit pulp reportedly eaten by Amazonian Shamans, but usually avoided by others due to bad odour and stinging after-effects. Medicinal: Extracts from tree’s tissues have antiseptic and antifungal properties, used by Amazonian Shamans to treat malaria. Young leaves used medicinally to relieve toothache, leaf juice used to treat skin diseases, fruit pulp used to disinfect wounds.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Ornamental Fruits, Fragrant (Flowers) (Time Independent, Day)
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Fertile Loamy Soils, Well-Drained Soils
Landscape Uses General, Focal Plant
Thematic Landscaping Naturalistic Garden
Usage Hazard - Cons Irritant - Nasal Allergy, Irritant - Sap
Usage Hazard - Cons Remarks Flower pollen and fruit pulp may cause irritation to some people. Fruits are large and fall without warning.

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Abiotic (Self-Pollinated), Biotic (Fauna) (Insects (Bee), Vertebrates (Bat), Carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.))
Seed or Spore Dispersal Biotic (Fauna) (Ripe fruits drop and crack open on ground. Seeds eaten by animals.)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate
Planting Distance From 6
Planting Distance To 9
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting
Propagule Establishment Remarks Seed germination may be difficult.
Maintenance Requirements Remarks Massive trunk densely covered by long fruit-bearing twigs. Tree shoud not be planted too closely to roads or paths where clearance is needed.

Foliar

Foliage Retention Drought / Semi-Deciduous
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Smooth, Velvety / Furry / Tomentose, Raised / Sunken Veins, Thin
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Spiral
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Elliptical)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire - Wavy / Undulate
Foliar Apex - Tip Acute
Foliar Base Cuneate
Typical Foliar Area Mesophyll ( 45cm2 - 182.25 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 3.0 (Tree - Intermediate Canopy)

Non - Foliar and Storage

Trunk Type (Non Palm) Woody
Bark Colour(s) Greyish-brown
Mature Bark Texture Fissured
Stem Type & Modification Woody
Root Type Underground (Tap Root, Fibrous Root)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality 1 Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Pink, Red, Yellow / Golden
Flower Size - Remarks 6 - 10cm across
Inflorescence Type Raceme
Flowering Period Free-Flowering
Flower Lifespan on Plant 1 Day
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed & Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) - Angiosperms and Gymnosperms Brown
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type 1 Indehiscent Dry Fruit
Fruit Type 2 Nut / Nutlet

Image Repository

Images

Others

Master ID 1534
Species ID 2827
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 08 June 2020.
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