Once the exclusive preserve of Sri Lankan royalty, Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden in Kandy has cannonball trees lining certain sections of its pathways. While the garden is known more for its collection of orchids, some of which were very pretty indeed, I was more interested in the cannonball flower.
It’s not that we don’t find them in India, but their unique shape fascinates me every time I see them. More often than not, the flowers are out of reach for me to take a decent picture, but this one seemed close enough for the zoom to work.
A Brazilian native, the tree takes its name from the cannonball-like shape of its fruits. Botanically known as ‘Couroupita guianensis’, in India it’s given several local names, most of them approximations of ‘Naga linga’ which stem from the fact that its staminodes resemble the hood of ‘Naga’ (a sacred snake) protecting a Shiva Lingam, which is the stamen in this case.
Considered sacred by Hindus on this account, the tree is grown in/around Shiva temples. Its called ‘Shiv Kamal’ in Hindi and ‘Sivalingam’ in Marathi, but I prefer the Telugu name ‘Mallikarjuna’ – it seems to add a mystical aura, don’t you think 😉
Which other interesting flowers do you know?