One of the trees in the Indian subcontinent that is considered sacred is Shiva Linga tree. The Shiva Linga tree is variously known as Nagalinga tree, Shiv Kamal, Kailsapati, Nagamalli, and Mallikarjuna. In English, the Shiva Linga tree is known as cannonball tree because the fruits resemble like a cannonball. Its flowers are eponymously known as Nagalinga pushpa in Kannada and Nagamalli or, Mallikarjuna or Mallikarjunidipoolu in Telugu, or Shiv Kamal in Hindi.

The flowers of the Shiva Linga tree are large and could grow to 6cm in width. They are brightly-coloured with the six petals. Inside the flowers, you can see shades of pink, red and yellow. The flower gives the appearance of a hood akin to cobra, and thus gets the name Shiva Linga tree.

The botanical name of the Shiva Linga tree is Couroupita guianensis and the name was given by J. F. Aublet the French botanist in 1755 AD.


The fruits of Shiva Linga tree are large, spherical and woody; thus, it gets the name cannonball tree. A fruit contains many seeds. The number of fruits on each tree can vary from 100 to 150 or more depending upon the lifespan of the tree. The tree takes a year to 18 months to reach fruition. 

The leaves of the trees are in clusters at the ends of the branches. The flowers of the tree are fragrant but the flesh of the fruit is not. The tree grows up to 35 meters in height, and will have many flowers and fruits. The trunk could be covered in hundreds of flowers.

The flowers have a strong scent, and the perfume of the flowers is intense in the nights and in the early mornings. The strong scent of the flowers is sans nectar but bees hum towards them for the flower’s pollen.

The fruits are inedible for humans, but edible for insects and are fed to cattle, fowls and livestock. It has medicinal benefits and antimicrobial properties. The extracts are used to treat hypertension, tumours, pains, malaria, inflammation, common cold and stomach ache, alleviating in skin conditions and wounds, malaria and toothache.

THREAT: When fruits fall on the ground, they make loud sound that people fear that an explosive has burst. For safety reasons, these trees are not planted near footpaths or passages as anyone could get hurt when the fruits falls.


The Shiva Linga tree is found in some Shiva temples in India and in Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka and Thailand. Hindus and Buddhists consider the tree sacred. Buddhist legend says Buddha’s mother Maya gave birth to Gautama Siddhartha (Buddha) Shiva Linga tree. However, sal trees and Shiva Linga trees have sacred importance in Buddhism. According to one source, when C. guianensis was introduced in Sri Lanka from Guyana in 1881, the tree was thought to be the sal tree (Shorea robusta) and thus it has been planted in Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka and in some countries of Southeast Asia. Sal tree (Shorea robusta) is a deciduous tree found in India, Myanmar, and Nepal. Its extracts are used in Ayurveda and in medicine to treat burning sensation, piles, leucorrhoea, seminal weakness, ulcers, gonorrhoea, skin disorders, wounds, diarrhoea, and dysentery.  

The tree in the featured photo of this article was taken in Bengaluru (Bangalore).


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