The Flower of Cannon-ball Tree: Puducherry’s State Flower

Raghunath TP
May 5, 2023

The Cannon-ball tree, also known as Couroupita guianensis, is the official state flower of Puducherry. Let's dive into the details of this magnificent tree. Etymology The scientific name of the Cannon-ball tree, Couroupita guianensis, has an interesting origin. Couroupita is the Latinized form of the French Guiana vernacular name, 'kouroupitoumou' or 'couroupito-utoumou.' Guianensis refers to its native region, Guiana in northern South America. Description The Cannon-ball tree can grow up to 15 meters tall, with leaves that are oblong, obovate, elliptic, or broadly lanceolate. The tree produces large, showy, and fragrant flowers that can be up to 15 cm across. The flowers have a top-shaped calyx tube with six lobes and six oblong-ovate petals that are fleshy, yellow and red-tinged, or rosy purple. The androphore, a structure that holds the stamens, is large, spathulate, and cream-colored. The tree produces globose fruits that are hard outside and pulpy inside, with many seeds embedded in the pulp. Distribution The Cannon-ball tree is native to Guyana in South America but can be found throughout Central America. It has also been introduced to other countries, including India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Economic Importance The Cannon-ball tree is grown as an ornamental tree in gardens because of its large rosy-purple flowers and large globular fruits. The wood is also used as fuel. Medicinal Uses The fruit pulp of the Cannon-ball tree is believed to cure headaches, while the leaf juice is applied externally for hair growth. Ceremonial Uses In India, the Cannon-ball tree is considered sacred to Hindus. The stamens clustered into a (staminal) hood-like structure at the center of the flower resemble a serpent-head over the Shiva lingam, giving it the name Nagalingam. In conclusion, the Cannon-ball tree is not just a state flower, but it is also a fascinating tree with a rich history and multiple uses. Its large and fragrant flowers, as well as its unique shape, make it a popular choice for gardens and ceremonies. So, the next time you visit Puducherry, keep an eye out for the Cannon-ball tree and appreciate its beauty and significance.

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