Thursday, May 27, 2010

Buddha's Trees

Today is the Full Moon Day of the Indian month of Vaishakha, the day Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha was born 2600 years ago. I am posting some trees which have associations with the Buddha.
The Cannonball Tree Couroupita guianensis, is a native of India as well as the tropical South America. It is called Nagalinga Pushpa in Kannada, which describes the flower which has a hood like the cobra Naga, and a short stigma resemling a Lingam in the centre. The flowers have two kinds of pollen, fertile pollen in the ring stamen, and sterile pollen in the hood stamen. The flower does not have nectar. So, to attract the pollinators, it has a strong perfume.

The tree gets its name 'Cannonball Tree', from the hard, round fruits which resemble cannonballs.
People of Thailand erroneously call this tree 'Shorea robusta'. Sal is the tree under which the Buddha gave his last sermon and drew his last breath.

The real Sal Tree Shorea robusta is flowering now throughout India. The wood from this tree is used for building houses and making furniture.

The Bodhi Tree Ficus religiosa is the tree under which Siddhartha Gautama had enlightenment and became the Buddha. This tree has no flowers.
Villages all over India have this tree growing in the centre. Meetings are held and disputes are settled under the Bodhi tree.
All the three trees are sacred to the Buddhists and the Hindus .


  1. Nice post and beautiful pictures, especially the one with the solitary cannon ball flower with a bee in it!

  2. Lovely post! I am really fond of the flowers of the cannon ball tree, and I think Nagalinga Pushpa, considering its meaning, is a much more charming name for the plant than "cannon ball tree".

  3. Great post. I love all the information and the photographs you gave us.
    Thank you.

  4. This one special tree! The flowers look so special and its fruits really looks like a mini cannonball... amazing!

  5. Hi The photographs are awesome. The monster Kabir painted on the cannonball is doing fine in our garden!

  6. These trees are special and sacred. How I wish I can see the real ones one day, especially the Bodhi tree. Buddhists here will be celebrating Wesak Day tomorrow, 28th May and it is a public holiday in Malaysia. Happy weekend to you!

  7. Hi i am glad i was able to see this post, as sometimes i fail to come here. I posted this tree and flower also in 2008 which i took in Pnom Phen (sorry if wrong spelling). The label there is Shorea robusta, so when i searched it is Coroupita guaianensis, as you called it too. I just left it that way as they labeled them, but i discussed my apprehension in my post. Pls read my post here:

    Thank you very much for correcting my confused condition about that tree, which i found very awesome! However, i did not smell the scent.

  8. Thank you for this post, I always love to read about the cultural connections and meanings of plants. Very interesting, as I am not so well read in the Buddhist texts.

  9. Thank you Shailaja.Your comments are always looked forward to.
    College Gardener, the local Sanskrit name is much more descriptiveand poetic than the dry botanical name.
    Thank you, Costas.
    Steph, yes these are some special trees.
    Manisha, Children paint monsters and clowns on the 'cannon balls'.
    Autumn Belle, the Bodhi tree is very common in these parts. I am surprised you haven't seen it in Malaysia.
    Andrea, thanks for visiting my blog. Yes, it is very confusing when people call something by a wrong name.
    Intercontinental Gardener, thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Please visit again.

  10. Very informative post. Loved seeing the awesome shots of the cannonball blooms and the fruit. And yes, the bee too!

  11. I love the 'cannon ball' tree, just not to stand under when those heavy seed balls drop! I also love its beautiful orchid like flowers and scent. Fond memories of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

  12. Dear sir,

    With regards to the above post please change the binomial name of Shorea robusta to Couroupita guianensis.
    Please do ASAP because many plant hunters get confused with such false posts.

  13. Many for that post my friend, i found it very usefull