This species is native to Trinidad and the northern regions of South America. The name Couroupita comes from the South American plant name; and 'guianensis' means from The Guianas.
The Cannonball Tree is a most beautiful and remarkable tree that has fascinated botanists with its curious form. It looks like no other tree one is familiar with.
The massive trunk is intertwined with a mass of thick long stalks bearing large showy flowers and large rounded fruits, with the latter looking very much like cannon balls. This is unusual as most trees bear their flowers and fruits on the branches, rather than along the trunk.
Its flowers are bisexual, large, about 12 cm across, fleshy, waxy and fragrant. There are 6 sepals, 6 petals which are yellow on the outside and pink on the inside and many stamens. The tissue of the flower when broken is white but turns blue.
Fruits develop in 18 months, remaining on the tree for a year or more before they fall with a thud. They are very large and round, up to 25 cm across, greyish brown, hard and looking like cannon balls. The fruits are filled with a smelly and soft red pulp. Old fruits disintegrate slowly to liberate the many seeds. The ripe flesh has an unpleasant smell. It was noted that the tree seems to be self-sterile as isolated trees would not fruit.
It was grown for its interesting botanical features and also as an ornamental tree in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It was used sparingly as a wayside tree in the past (along Napier Road / Tanglin Road, Connaught Drive and the Kent Ridge campus of the National University of Singapore).
In Thailand, these trees can be found growing mostly in temple grounds. The Hindus in Singapore use the flowers for worship while in Sri lanka, they are used as offerings at Buddhist shrines and temples. In India, the flowers are offered to Lord Shiva by devotees. In its native country the shell of the fruit is made into utensils.
This Cannonball Tree at the Singapore Botanic Gardens was planted in 1931 from seeds collected by Prof E J H Corner from tree specimen/s he found when he was in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
This tree is dedicated to Tan Jiew Hoe.