Sunday, May 21, 2023


It is very difficult to reconcile to the fact that the cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis) is an exotic species, not native to this country. The scientific name itself should give you a clue; but as a schoolboy, I was introduced to this as the nagapushpam tree, sacred for its connection to Siva. 

Originally from the north-eastern parts of South America (hence guianensis), this tree usually flowers very profusely. Coming to it early in the morning, one can see a couple of hundred flowers strewn around it. The flowers, fallen and on the stem, let off a heady scent. In the absence of nectar, it is the scent that attracts large insects, who must work hard to find the source of the fragrance - in the course of which they fulfil their role as the tree's pollinators.

The fruits are more stern. Hard, round and brown, they have at times been useful as weapons in schoolboys' fights. The fruits take time to, well, be fruitful. They get to maturity anytime between 12-18 months of fruiting. The older the fruit, the harder its shell. They could make good cannonballs at 12 months; at 18, the shell can be used to fashion ladles or small bowls. That would be a better use of it!

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