I was with friends around Mirissa (on the south coast of Sri Lanka) one year in January when these beachside shrubs were flowering. Lasting just the one night, the artless sweet-smelling pompoms fall in the morning, leaving the seed pod to mature into a handsome purse on the tree. We first discovered the flowers strewn on the beach when we went for our morning walk. While we were able to admire the flowers glowing palely in the moonlight, the trick was to capture an image in the daylight, before they fell. I never discovered what they are called, and for some reason I’ve never been at another beach when they were flowering.
See other Delicate entries for this week’s Photo Challenge.
The mystery has been solved!
Christine, at Dadirridreaming, remembered a post by Chullie back in February, with a photograph of a fallen white flower with long wavy stamens.
Among other things, Chullie tells of a young man who was planting Moodilla as part of the Tsunami land rehabilitation around Kalutara – which is the sort of story I love to read about. And Wikipedia has a beautiful drawing by Francisco Manuel Blanco, from his 1880-1887 folio Flora de Filipinas, which makes the plant description at http://toptropicals.com/catalog/uid/Barringtonia_asiatica.htm immediately recognisable:
Barringtonia asiatica, Mammea asiatica, Barringtonia speciosa, Agasta asiatica, Butonica rumphina
Family: Barringtoniaceae / Lecythidaceae
Sea Poison Tree, Langasat, Fish Poison Tree, Putat Laut, Butun, Butong, Pertun, Balubiton, Lugo, Motong-botong, Vuton
Origin: Coastal areas of: Indian, Madagascar, Philippines, Polynesia
This curious plant grows in sand or sand-mix with lots of water and sun. The stem will reach for up to 60Ft, and the flowers are white. It can be reproduced by seeds. What seems to be a caudex is just the large nut which will disappear by time. In habitat it is a large tree that grows on sandy and rocky shores, it has large leaves held in rosettes at the ends of branches. The young leaves are a beautiful bronze with pinkish veins. Old leaves turn yellowish. The flowers are delightful puff balls of white stamens tipped with pink. They open at night and attract large moths and nectar-feeding bats with their heavy scent. The next morning, the flower stamens are usually found strewn beneath the tree. The fruits have a typical lantern shape and float on the water. The fruit can survive drifting on the sea for long distances and for periods of up to 2 years. They were among the first seeds to arrive on the island of Krakatau when it first emerged out of the sea. The outermost layer of the fruit wall is green turning brown when ripe. The middle layer is spongy and contains air sacs to help the fruit float. The innermost layer is hard and thick to protect the seed (the layers of spongy and hard coverings are somewhat similar to the coconut). All parts of the tree contain saponin, a poison. The seeds and other parts of the plant are pounded, pulped or grated to release the poison and used to stun fish in freshwater streams. The floating seeds are sometimes used as fishing floats. A colorful shady tree, it is commonly planted as a roadside tree. The heated leaves are used to treat stomach ache and rheumatism (Philippines); seeds are used to get rid of intestinal worms.
How beautiful, looks like fireworks coming out of the flower.
Yes! Pristine gold tipped fireworks. I love that analogy, thanks Angeline 🙂
Very cool! I have never seen anything like this.
I think it’s pretty common, here in the tropics – I’ve seen the leaf around a lot, anyway. Just have no idea what it’s called, but it sure is lovely, and delicate as a thought.
I don’t know, it’s beautiful, looks a little bit like capers in southern Italy click here
Teresa suggested that too, but if you click on the thumbnail of the bush, you’ll see the leaves and fruit are quite distinct and very different. I’ll have to figure out how to use the Kew Garden website to search for it, I think because now I’m intrigued to see if the similarity in the flower means they’re related. Thanks dear 🙂
I’m probably the most plant challenged person on the planet, so no clue as to the name, (sorry) but you are right… it’s beautiful!!!!
There have to be people who simply admire 🙂
It’s like fiber optics shooting out of the flower. How intriguing.
Yes! One of those 60s lamps!
I think it’s caper’s flower.
Take a look here: http://www.google.it/search?q=cappero+fiore&hl=it&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=fJHRULnpB4iSswa4yYCICQ&ved=0CDAQsAQ&biw=1440&bih=767
This plant also grows in the south of Italy.
Ciao, Teresa 🙂
Teresa, what a champion! It’s very similar, isn’t it? The leaves and the seed pods/fruits are the wrong shape though – if you click on the thumbnail you can see they are both very large and distinctive. 🙂
Yes, but your “caper” is in Sri Lanka, more hot that Italy, so plat may be bigger 😀
I think… 😉
Thanks so much for your detective work.
Mystery solved! It’s part of the family of trees like the mangrove – read all about it back at the post!
Mystery solved! :))
a lovely challenge meredith … could it be “moodilla” ???? great photo!!!! ….http://chulie.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/up-close-with-moodilla-flowers-and-emerson-tennent/
I’m sure you’re right, Christine! What a good memory you have. And what a great find for me to see Chulie’s blog. Thank you my dear 🙂
not memory i must confess, just googling sri lanka flowers, looking through the images until voila, it looked like a match, the one great benefit from doing a phd is good research skills!
Mother Nature had fun with that one!
Thanks for all you wonderful posts this year. Have a very Happy Christmas.
It’s been so nice to read your blog too. I hope your Christmas is joyful and full of wonderful food 🙂 See you next year!
I’ve never seen flowers like that! Really beautiful! And only last one night… Thank you, TWG!
It’s amazing how many exquisite and highly scented flowers bloom just for one night – it pays to stay up and wander the garden, especially in the tropics!
Such a beautiful little flower. So delicate, so special.
Now THAT’S a special plant! beautiful post…Thank you so much for expanding my knowledge!
Nature is just amazing in her diversity! Such short-lived beauty—best to savor it when we have the chance!
I see there are botanical explanations and sources being touted for this flower’s origins… I think it comes from a galaxy far far away 😉
Looks like those fiber optic lights that were cool maybe in the 70’s (my grandmother had one). Very cool and interesting; how beautiful and a rare treat, so it sounds, to see and be able to capture on film.
It is a gorgeous flower… How are you? All settled?
No! Postponed my departure for a couple of months … Just not ready.
Okay… Cool! 😉
A mysterious and romantic tree! I didn’t know of it. Thank you for the photo and the information.
Wonderful tree, really – unassuming by day, despite those great waxy leaves, and totally transformed at night with its scented ghostly pompoms!
What a lovely flower, don’t remember ever having seen one before. Not even in pictures!
Strange, I saw a hedge of them growing in a school yard here in Colombo just today! According to the botanical notes they’re quick growing, and salt tolerant, and are common all over the tropical areas of the Pacific and Indian oceans. What a find!
My good what we learn …
That’s supposed to be ‘goodness’ 😉