Field of Science

Cannonball tree - another ludicrous flower to enjoy!

While clearing out lab space the Phactor happened upon a box of old 3.5” disks (Hey, there are still boxes of 5.25” disks around here too.) that were used as the file storage medium for the 1st digital camera our department ever purchased. And they were filled with images from the tropics, and although now looking a bit low in resolution, such images are not easily replaced. It’s been awhile since the Phactor had a good ludicrous flower for you to enjoy, so here’s the flower of Couroupita guianensis, the cannonball tree.

As you may judge from the fingers (upper left), the flower is pretty large, some 5-6 inches across, and rather luridly colored orange-red, and not of the usual floral organization. The petals are not equal and in a nice regular whorl. The thing that looks a bit like a sea anemone is an androphore, a structure that bears anthers, and the rather thickish anther filaments are lavender. The furry-fuzzy disk behind is composed of sterile anthers with a single pistil in the middle that develops into a hard, cannonball-sized (6-8" diam) fruit. Like many tropical trees, this one produces flowers on its trunk rather than among its leafy branches, but this tree grows a mantle of leafless, twisty-turny dangling branches upon which flowers and fruits are borne. While a native of the neotropics, cannonball tree has been planted around the tropics as a curiosity.

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