The Cannonball Tree (Couroupita guianensis) is an evergreen tree allied to the Brazil Nut (Bertholletia excelsa), native of tropical northern South America, tropical America, the southern Caribbean and Southern India.
It grows to 30-35m tall, with leaves in whorls on the ends of the shoots. The flowers, which are borne only on special stems on the main trunk, are orange, scarlet or pink forming racemes up to 3 m long. They mature into large spherical woody fruit 15-24 cm diameter, containing numerous (200-300) seeds. The pulp of the fruits oxidizes bluish, and has an unpleasant smell.
Like coconut palms, the trees should not be planted near paths or near traffic filled areas, as the heavy nut is known to fall without notice.
The trees are grown extensively in Shiva temples in India. It is called the 'nagalingam' tree in Tamil. The flowers are called 'Shivalinga flowers', 'Nagamalli flowers' or 'Mallikarjuna flowers' in Telugu. It is considered a sacred tree among Hindus because the flower resembles a nagam or a sacred snake on the central large shiva lingam and numerous shivalingams around.