Couroupita guianensis–the Canon Ball Tree

I’ve never seen a tree like this. It has amazing flowers and crazy fruit. The tree is native to the Caribbean and South America. It is in the Lecythidaceae family (as is the Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa)).

The flowers grow on weird branch-like things that come out of the trunk of the tree. These are below the branches which have leaves on them. They also have fruit that look like brown cannon balls. All that is very well and good but the most crazy thing about these trees is the flowers. Who knew flowers like these existed?

I am going to quote wikipedia now…

“The flowers are attached to an upwardly bent, white fleshy disk. The flowers have six petals, which are large, orange-red, and strongly perfumed. In pollination, fertile stamens can be found in a ring around reduced style and stamens. The sterile pollen is located in the anthers. As a bee enters to pollinate the flower, its back rubs against the ring with fertile pollen; this allows the bee to carry the fertile pollen to another flower. The differences in the pollen was noticed by French botanist Antoine Porteau in 1825. The differences in the pollen are as follows: the pollen of the ring stamens is fertile, while the hood pollen is sterile.”

It is not that often you see stunning flowers, at head height, coming from the trunk of a massive tree. Then on closer inspection you realise the flowers are like nothing you’ve seen before.

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4 responses to “Couroupita guianensis–the Canon Ball Tree

  1. Tamsin

    Hi Malcolm.
    Alison and I saw this tree in Australia. We both had this same reaction as you – it is amazing.
    Thanks for all the great posts – I have been following closely!
    Keep having happy travels.
    Tamsin (ex OBG trainee…)

    • Malcolm Rutherford

      Thanks for the comment Tamsin.
      I’m glad you love the crazy tree, and stoked you are following our planty nerdyness.

  2. Dorothy

    Dear Malcolm
    Amazing plant – beautiful flowers. Thank you for sharing with all of us.
    Hope you are both well and enjoying yourselves.
    By the way I thought the home you had / have on the Kira farm in Uganda delightful – shown to us in Amanda’s blog. Took me back. In the old days a number of people had similar styled house. One rondavel for the living quarters and the other as the sleeping quarters. The high conicle thatched roof makes for coolness.
    God bless you and yours now and always.
    Love and best wishes to you both
    Auntie Dorothy

  3. Alison Foster

    Hi Malcolm,

    I’m also really enjoying your blog posts. That tree is amazing – like Tamsin said we were fascinated by it too. Have you seen any pollination in action? and what do they do with the fruits there?

    Best wishes to both you and Amanda,


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