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Lecythis pisonis Cambess

Family Name: Lecythidaceae
Common Name: Monkey Pot Tree, Cream Nut, Paradise Nut, 猴锅树, 猴壶树

The Monkey Pot Tree has showy purple flowers which gradually becomes white over time. The fruit is woody and shaped like a spinning-top. When ripe, the fruit splits open like a pot and lid to reveal white fleshy seeds within.

Full Sun Moderate Water Tree


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Common Names
Species Summary

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants)
Plant Growth Form Tree
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Maximum Height 50 m


Native Distribution Brazil
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Exotic

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a tree, up to 20 m tall. Bark is grey to dark brown and deeply fissured. Twigs are densely hairy when young, and becoming hairless as it matures. Tree may grow new leaves and flush red before flowering.
Foliage Leaves are ovate to widely elliptic (6 – 18 cm long and 3 – 8 cm wide), dark green and leathery, with lobed leaf margin (crenate). Leaf has 10 – 20 pairs of secondary veins. Leaf tip is acuminate, while leaf base is rounded to obtuse and extends narrowly towards the petiole. Petiole is 0.4 – 1.2 cm long. Leaves are deciduous and drops annually for new leaves to grow. Young leaves flush red and turning cream to light green then dark green as it matures.
Flowers Inflorescence occurs in racemes and axillary position. The stalk is about 3 – 15 cm long and consist of 6 – 20 flowers. Inflorescence has a leaf-like bract at the base and 2 ovate bracteoles, which may fall off early. Flower is 3 – 7 wide and comprises of 6 oval shaped purple lobes (0.35 – 0.8 cm long and 0.35 – 0.8 cm wide) and 6 unequal petals (1.7 – 3.5 cm long and 1.4 – 2.7 cm wide) which are usually purple but sometimes white. Petals always fade to white after falling. The hood containing the stamens is flat (1.6 – 2.5 cm long and 1.6 – 3 cm wide), mostly purple but sometimes white. The anthers inside the hood is white or light yellow when fresh and becoming black. There are 114 – 350 stamens on the staminal ring.
Fruits Fruit is woody, brown coloured, and has a roundish, oblong or spinning-top shaped (turbinate) (about 6 – 15 cm long and 8.5 – 30 cm wide). It splits open like a pot and lid when ripe. The woody fruit wall is up to 3 cm thick. There are 10 – 30 seeds inside each fruit, the seeds (about 4 – 6 cm long and 2.5 – 3 cm wide) are covered with fleshy white aril.
Habitat It is found growing along rivers and non-flooded forests.
Associated Fauna Flowers are pollinated by Carpenter bees. Seeds are dispersed by fruit bats.
Etymology The genus Lecythis is greek for XevOos, which means oil-jar, referring to the urn-like or pot-like fruits. The species pisonis, is named after William Piso (1611-1678) who published the Historia Naturalis Brasiliae in 1648.
Ethnobotanical Uses Cultural / Religious ( Heritage Tree: There are 3 individuals of Lecythis Pisonis listed as Heritage Trees in Singapore. All of which can be found in Singapore Botanic Gardens. To find out more about these trees, please visit the Heritage Tree Register.)
[Others]: Seeds are eaten fresh, boiled or roasted in Brazil. However, high concentration of selenium is found in the seeds and excessive consumption may result in selenium poisoning.

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna) (Insects (Bee))
Seed or Spore Dispersal Biotic (Fauna) (Vertebrates (Other Mammal))

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate


Foliage Retention Deciduous
Prominent Young Flush Colour(s) Red



Mori, S. A., Prance, G. T., and de Zeeuw, C. H. 1990. Lecythidaceae, Part 2. The Zygomorphic-Flowered New World Genera (Couroupita,Corythophora, Bertholletia, Couratari, Eschweilera, & Lecythis), With a Study of Secondary Xylem of Neotropical Lecythidaceae. Flora Neotropica 21(2): 1 - 363

Image Repository



Master ID 33139
Species ID 7553
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: 05 August 2022.