Whenever I saw these trees in my neighborhood, I was surprised by its odd features. It is very upright tree and very tall. There are four or five trees in our area at Panvel near Mumbai. There are big ball like fruits of khaki color hanging just below the main canopy, very near to the beginning of the trunk. Some of them are as big as musk melons. Ants gather on these fruits. Big shoots come out which are bend downward and have many buds. Very beautiful pink color flowers come out. I did not know the name of the tree then.
Today, as I was passing underneath one of these trees on the roadside, I noticed that tree is in full bloom. There is strong fragrance all around. Bees are hovering on the flowers and enter the flower and fly over to another one. They are helping in the process of cross pollination.
After some search on the internet, I came to know that the tree is commonly called Cannon Ball tree because of those big and heavy ball like fruits. Its scientific name is Couroupita guianensis and it is said to the native of Brazil, a claim which may not be very true because in India these trees are growing for thousands of years.
The trees in India have various names according to the states of their habitat. It is called Shiva Kamal or Kailashpati. In Tamil it is called Nagalingam. All these names suggests relation to Shiva. Due to this, these trees are revered and are found near the Shiva temples. The flower shape resembles the hood of Naga, a sacred snake. In Kannada it is called Nagalinga Pushpa and Mallikarjuna flowers in Telugu.
Buddhists also plant this tree at Buddhist temples. The fruits fall down with a great force when the stem is unable to bear its weight. It cracks on falling and emits a foul odor. The ants however like these fruits and gather within no time after the fruit has cracked and split.