Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hooded snake cannonball

This is the flower of the Cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis), with the stamen stem curving over itself to resemble a serpent's hood. The curve also protects the fertile stamens (at the base) while showing off the fodder staminodes to their best advantage. That's how it attracts the pollinators - mainly carpenter bees.  

The fruit - which gives the tree its name - is a large, round, woody ball. It takes anything from 12 to 18 months for the fruit to be fully ripe. In that time, it makes for a wonderful sight, with several of the cannonballs hanging to the main trunk. The ripe fruit falls off and bursts open, releasing 300 seeds on the average. Small animals take over the task of dispersing them. 

The shape of the flower gives it the local name nagalingam, the snake flower. it is not a tree that is common in private gardens. Most of the specimens are found in public gardens or in temple courtyards. This one is a little bit of both - the gardens of the Theosophical Society!

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