I first saw a Nagalinga tree in Kerala. I had never seen a tree like this! Its huge trunk was covered with spindly vines, and hanging from these vines were hundreds of big pink flowers with six petals. The flowers have a strong, pungent perfume. Also hanging from the vines were round, brown fruits that look like cannonballs. This is how this astonishing tree (which is originally from South America) gets its English name: Cannonball tree.
Now is the time when the Nagalinga or Cannonball tree is in full bloom. A few weeks ago I was in Cubbon Park with my friend Kitty who knows a lot about flowers and trees. I asked her if there was a Nagalinga in the park and sure enough there was. She knew exactly where it was and took me to see it. Even before we found the tree we could smell the perfume of the flowers. The trunk was covered with hundreds of flower buds, some of which were open. Some had fallen to the ground, so I took one home. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me so I couldn’t take a picture.
The tree’s latin name is Couroupita Guianensis but in India it is often called Nagalinga because the inside of the flower has a ‘hood’ which looks like the hood of a snake (naga=snake) which protects the stamen (‘male organ’ of a flower) which resembles a Shiva linga.
For me, the shape reminded me of the hood of the snake Vishnu sleeps on.