Today I must share more on my recent experience with cannonball tree fruit.
I came across my first in-person cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis) at The Fruit and Spice Park down in the Homestead area. It’s one of those crazy must-see tropical plants you have a hard time believing is real, even while you’re staring right at it.
The outrageous blooms on snaky ropes and the rusty-looking spherical fruit are the tree’s two main claims to fame.
The flowers have a very nice scent and the trees are often planted in tropical climes for that reason.
When I was out in town with a friend the other day we drove past an aging apartment complex and he slowed down.
“Look at those,” he said, pointing.
I spotted them immediately. Two cannonball trees, loaded with blooms. And… could it be… yes! There were fruit on them as well.
The tree at The Fruit and Spice Park was covered in blooms but there was nary a fruit to be seen. This tree had multiple fruit growing up the trunk.
“I’m going to go get one,” my friend said.
I was already half out of the car.
We walked up to the huge trees, draped in blooms with dangling cannonballs over our heads. On the ground in front of us one lay, basically begging to be picked up. So we did. A couple of folks waved to us from the apartment building and my friend held up the fruit and waved back. They waved again, which I guess meant “take it!”
I was stoked. The fruit was almost the size of a bowling ball with a rough, dry shell with a few minute cracks that looked similar to the fused bone on top of a human skull.
“I think these are edible,” I remarked. “They’re a relative of Brazil nuts. I can’t wait to look inside!”
My friend said “you can take it home and open it up, just save a few seeds so I can plant some too!”
I decided that I would open the cannonball tree fruit on camera so I could share the experience with all of you. It ended up being much more entertaining than I first expected.
WARNING: The Following Portion and Basically the Rest of This Post is NOT for Those with Weak Stomachs
Hehhehheh! I love my job!
More About the Cannonball Tree Fruit
When I first opened the cannonball tree fruit, I thought perhaps it smelled bad because it was rotten.
No such luck.
As Singapore’s National Parks website puts it:
“Fruits develop in 18 months, remaining on the tree for a year or more before they fall with a thud. They are very large and round, up to 25cm across, greyish brown, hard and looking like cannon balls. The fruits are filled with a smelly and soft red pulp. Old fruits disintegrate slowly to liberate the many seeds. The ripe flesh has an unpleasant smell.”
“Unpleasant smell” is an understatement.
The cannonball tree fruit smells like a bloated 2-ton 3-day-dead possum passed gas, causing a tequila-saturated hobo to projectile vomit into an adjacent dumpster filled with rotting cheese and mayonnaise.
That’s what cannonball tree fruit smell like.
My stomach was doing flips by the end of that short video and I’m normally possessed of a higher-than-normal tolerance for smells. I enjoy cigars, Limburger cheese, fish sauce, sauerkraut and sardines… but cannonball tree fruit are far beyond anything I’ve ever encountered.
If it’s edible, I don’t want it. And I’ve eaten some weird things. No. Just no.
Uses for the Cannonball Tree
Okay, so what is the cannonball tree good for, if not for eating?
It’s known to produce an abundance of pollen which is favored by bees, despite the tree’s complete lack of nectar. The interior shell of the fruit can be used similarly to the calabash tree for utensils and bowls. One site also claims that the wood of the cannonball tree is used for making incense.
The blooms smell excellent and can be used in perfume-making.
It’s not as useful as I would have hoped, but I did save seeds and will plant them anyhow. Just because.
A Final Note
The cannonball tree comes with a warning on more than one site. The website Flowers of India warns:
“Cannon ball trees usually carry ‘CAUTION’ signs posted on the trunks to advise people not to stand close to and directly under the fruits as one can get hurt as they drop off by themselves. ”
Where I now live the natives don’t bother with that sort of thing. The two trees were growing right at the entrance to a high-density apartment building and there were a couple more of them completing a row at the building next to it.
Unlike the US where everything is grounds for a lawsuit, if you take a cannonball to the head here… you probably deserved it for not looking up.
I also suppose I deserved my upset stomach for opening that freaky thing. My fingers smelled horrible for the rest of the day from picking seeds out of the putrid flesh – that odor sticks.
That said, I still can’t wait to grow my own tree. For science.