Look out below! Cannonball tree attracts curious onlookers in Seychelles
The cannonball tree can be found in only two places in Seychelles. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The cannonball tree -- a plant species that has fascinated writers and botanists -- can be found in Seychelles at the Botanical Gardens and a Hilton property. But beware: it has the name cannonball tree for a reason.
The fruits of the cannonball tree are large, round and heavy like their namesakes. When they fall they make a loud, explosive sound. This is why the species is not planted near footpaths or main roads, said Steen Hansen, a Denmark national living in Seychelles since 2005.
“Although it is an attraction, naturally these quirky trees are not planted near footpaths – as a falling one can cause serious injury to your head,” said Hansen, who has a master's degree in biology and a bachelor's degree in geography and geology.
Visitors to Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, are also fascinated by the cannonball tree which can be found in the Seychelles National Botanical Gardens and at the Hilton Seychelles Northolme hotel.
“They take pictures of the flowers and they always ask if the fruit is edible,” said Clara Lesperance, the front office supervisor at the Hilton Seychelles Northolme, a resort in the north of the main island Mahe where the cannonball tree can be found.
|The cannonball tree is cultivated in many countries for its beautiful and scented flowers and interesting fruits. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
In the Botanical Gardens, the tree is not only an attraction for visitors but also provides food for the Seychelles fruit bats that feed on the petals of the red flowers with tentacles looking like sea anemones.
Another attractive trait of the species is that the fruits grow straight on the trunk instead of from branches.
The cannonball is a native to the rainforest of central and southern America and cultivated in many other countries for its beautiful and scented flowers and interesting fruits.
“The flowers themselves are strongly scented, especially at night and in the early morning,” said Hansen. He added that “the cannonball tree might take up to a year or more too mature, and impressively contains more than 550 seeds.”
Cannonball tree is not only ornamental but also has healing properties. Hansen, who has also written scientific and popular science-related articles, said that the tree has medicinal uses.
“Native Amazonians use extracts of several parts of the tree to treat hypertension, tumours, pain and inflammation. It has also been used to treat the common cold, stomachache, skin conditions and wounds, malaria and toothache by chewing the leaves,” said Hansen.