The cannonball mangrove is a very unique and curious tree of East African and Southeast Asia shorelines. It is unique in that the collective seeds from any individual fruit form a unique and natural puzzle that can be very difficult to put back to together.
Puzzles do not normally grow on trees but this one is the exception! The proper name for the tree is Xylocarpus granatum, but it is also known as the Patience Tree or the Cannonball Mangrove. The nut of its fruit is sometimes called the Monkey Puzzle Nut.
Mangrove trees are used by the indigenous peoplesof the islands where they grow as a natural resource for a variety of needs. The wood of mangroves is used for making canoes, fuel and for the production of charcoal. The fruit of this tree can be the size of an orange or larger.
In the middle of the Cannonball Mangrove fruit in particular is a woody capsule that contains up to 18 interlocking seeds. When the fruit is ripe the pod explodes and the seeds are expelled and float their separate way. When conditions are right a new tree will sprout from the seed and growth is very rapid, sending down roots to firmly anchor the young mangrove to the shoreline, extending virtual land little bit further seaward.
Even though mangroves flourish along salt water shorelines where most other trees cannot endure, they apparently do not actually require a saline environment to grow. Sources (see: 1) seem to indicate that mangrove can be grown in containers using only fresh water but that the best growth occurs in at least brackish water of 50/50 ratio fresh tosalt water. The myriad of tangled downward-pointing roots provide a natural shelter along the shoreline, a retreat and habitat for many marine creatures who live and hide in the water among them.
Both the fruit and the seed pods of mangrove float which aids distance propagation via the tides of the ocean. Germination occurs when conditions are favorable, conditions that include several factors such as salinity and ambient temperature. Different species of mangrove have differing methods of propagation.
Some species of mangrove do not actually drop their ripe seeds in the traditional way; the seeds sprout from the ripe fruit while still attached to the parent tree. Upon reaching a certain length and presumably weight they snap-off and float away in search of favorable conditions elsewhere.
The number of seeds can vary among specie with anything up to as many as 16 to 18 individual seeds for the Cannonball Mangrove. However the particular interest for us is the fact that these seeds interlock so beautifully forming an intricate 3-dimensional puzzle as we will see in the upcoming video.
Putting the pieces back together is not so easy! Watch the YouTube video below to see what I mean. This is nature’s own Rubik’s Cube!
The Puzzle Nut of the Patience Tree Mangrove
I seriously want one of these for Christmas!