Pharyngula

There’s a reason this is also called the cannonball tree.

Comments

  1. #1 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 28, 2010

    Balls? I thought they were nuts.

  2. #2 MadScientist
    April 28, 2010

    Wow – that’s a fairly large flower on a very long inflorescence. I wish I could see one in bloom to sniff it now. One of my favorite flowers was a scented orchid (despite spending many hours walking through forests looking for orchids because they were interesting, I know next to nothing about them) – I wish I knew the name. :) Anyway, the stalks on that orchid would grow to 1 or 2 yards and there’d be a chain of purple flowers – you could smell the thing from far away.

  3. #3 Squiddhartha
    April 28, 2010

    Hey! Free Koosh!

  4. #4 Ubi Dubium
    April 28, 2010

    I saw one of those trees in near Hilo a few years ago. As my husband used to be in the artillery, we asked about it, and whether those “cannonballs” were actually hard, and whether they could injure someone standing underneath if they fell. Alas, the answer was that they were not nuts, but a rather squashy fruit that would land with a splat and made rather a mess when they dropped.

  5. #5 Carlie
    April 28, 2010

    I think it’s trying to camouflage itself as an anemone.

  6. #6 Merridol
    April 28, 2010

    Oooh! I saw those in Trinidad, they’re nearly the size of my palm and smell sickly sweet.

    Other mammals eat the flowers, so the local I was staying with had tried them before. Apparently, they’re very spicy, and taste like pepper.

  7. #7 OrchidGrowinMan
    April 28, 2010

    Courcoupita fruits may not be nuts or filled with nuts, but there are warnings not to plant it close to walking- or parking places, as the falling fruit is still dangerous (like coconuts and durians). The fruit ruptures on impact, turns blue inside (what pigment?) and smells bad, though the flowers smell lovely.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Couroupita_guianensis

    Its relation, the Brazil Nut, is cooler. The fruit is harder, and is filled with the Brazil Nuts of commerce. The tree is huge, so the fruits are correspondingly more spectacular on impact, but don’t shatter. Instead, an Agouti bites them open, finding just a few more nuts than it can eat, so it carries-off and buries the rest, like a squirrel planting Oaks.

    Interestingly, Brazil Nut plantations failed. They failed because the trees made few-to-none fruits because the pollinator was not present because the orchid the pollinator needs ( http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/03/botanical_wednesday_the_convol.php ) is not present, because it doesn’t grow on Brazil Nut trees:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil_nut

    Because Brazil Nuts are necessarily produced from relatively intact ecosystems, you should eat a lot of them to give incentive to preserve those ecosystems.

  8. #8 kiankheong
    April 28, 2010

    I have seen both the Cannonball flower+tree and the Brazil Nut flower+tree in my university.

    However, my recent visit to Bangkok got me confused the flowers of the Cannonball tree with that of Shorea robusta

    Can anyone help to enlighten me? Botany is not my strength. :P

    Thanks.

  9. #9 bbreuer
    April 28, 2010

    Some years ago I went through Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, and they had one of these, with not-quite-as-beautiful flowers but plenty of cannonballs and the path going right by. At least they put up a sign “Beware of falling cannonballs” next to the tree! I casually glanced up while I took my photos. :-)

    Foster, btw, is a beautiful garden, very varied, with mature trees, and relatively small, so you can walk through leisurely. A good place to visit. Next time I’m going to Bishop Museum though.

  10. #10 OrchidGrowinMan
    April 28, 2010

    kiankheong,

    Shorea (“Sal Tree”) must look like Couroupita (but I don’t see much resemblance in the flowers): the two species are apparently confused in some regions.
    Siddhartha Gautama was supposed to be born under a Shorea.

    Saraca indica is confused with Shorea in old texts.

  11. #11 Day
    April 28, 2010

    Maybe they should have called it the nipple tree.

  12. #12 Carlie
    April 28, 2010

    Day – I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed that. I thought perhaps I was still being influenced by Boobquake.

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