CANNONBALL TREE ( COUROUPITA GUIANENSIS) - INFORMATION: THE BEAUTIFUL AND AMAZING TREE
The Cannonball tree is native to the tropical parts of South America and held in high regard by the shamans of the Amazon region. They call it “head of spirit” or Ayahuma. It is sacred to Hindus who call it Nagalingam, as it has what resembles the sacred serpent on the large Shiva lingam in the centre of the flower and there are other Shiva lingams around this. The flowers bloom for just one day but smell amazing when in bloom, like an expensive exotic perfume. In the Amazon all parts of the tree are used medicinally by the shamans who also eat the fruit, although this is not recommended for ordinary mortals who probably have allergic reactions to it. Peccaries eat it and disperse the seeds through their faeces. It can grow to heights of 115 feet and the trunk can have a diameter of 2½ feet. Old trees can have the lower parts of their trunks completely covered with fruit and flowers.
The fruits and flowers appear on the tree trunks together, protruding from the trunk on short stalks. The fruit contains seeds surrounded in a white edible jelly-like pulp which turns blue-green when exposed to air, and then it exudes an unpleasant smell. This occurs naturally when it falls from the tree and breaks open. As the fruit can be up to 20 cms they could cause damage to anyone they fall on, so when the trees are in public places they come with a “caution!” sign.
The Cannonball tree is a member of the Lecythidaceae family so it is related to the Brazil nut tree. The wood from the tree can be used to make furniture and the empty fruit shell is used for kitchen utensils and decorations.
The leaves have antibiotic, antifungal and antiseptic properties as well as bringing pain relief and are chewed to relieve toothache. In Ayurvedic medicine the leaves are used as an anti-inflammatory, and for alopecia, skin diseases and fevers. In folk medicine the tree and its parts are said to bring someone who is mad back to sanity. In the Amazon, the flesh of the fruit is used to clean wounds, and other parts are used for colds, stomach aches and malaria.