Cannonball Tree (നാഗലിംഗമരം)

Scientific Name: Couroupita guianensis Aubl. 

Synonyms: Couratari pedicellaris Rizzini , Couroupita acreensis R. Knuth

Unique ID: 57

Systematic Position

Class: Dicotyledonae

Order: Ericales

Family: Lecythidaceae

Common Names

English – Cannonball tree

Malayalam – നാഗലിംഗമരം

Tamil – Naagalingam

Hindi – Nagalinga



Description: Medium-sized tree, usually up to 25m tall under cultivation; Trunk- Up to 0.8m across, appearing more massive due to dense tangle of long dangling branchlets (up to 3m long) that emerge and cover lower trunk, especially in older trees. Bark greyish-brown, fissured; Foliage- Leaves smooth to slightly velvety with serrate and somewhat margins, simple, arranged spirally at ends of branches. Species is semi-deciduous, shedding its leaves around once to twice a year, usually in response to dry weather; Flowers-Complex nectarless structures, each consisting of 6 large and fleshy-waxy petals that are red to orange on the inside and yellow on the outside, a disk of numerous short and yellow ring-stamens (which produce fertile pollen) arranged around reduced styles and stamens, and a pink-white anemone-like structure of hood-stamens (which produce sterile pollen). Highly-fragrant, primarily pollinated by carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.) and bats (which consume the anthers and stamens, besides the sterile pollen).  Fruits- Nuts large (20-24cm across), globose, with hard woody exocarp (shell), produced in clusters, taking some 18 months to attain maturity, and resembling rusty-brown cannonballs when ripe.


Habitat: Terrestrial (Primary Rainforest) ; But now widely planted

Distribution:  From Panama, French Guiana to Tropical South America. 

Uses:   Cultural / Religious ; Hard shells of fruits used to make containers and utensils. Fragrant flowers used to scent perfumes and cosmetics. Timber: Soft, light-colored wood utilized to make furniture.  Food: Fruit pulp reportedly eaten by Amazonian Shamans, but usually avoided by others due to bad odour and stinging after-effects. Medicinal: Extracts from tree’s tissues have antiseptic and antifungal properties, used by Amazonian Shamans to treat malaria. Young leaves used medicinally to relieve toothache, leaf juice used to treat skin diseases, fruit pulp used to disinfect wounds.