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Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Dynamite Tree



Otherwise known as the dynamite tree or monkey-no-climb tree (as opposed to the monkey puzzle tree), Hura crepitans which is native to the American tropics - has an explosive method of dispersing its seeds. One of its common names, dynamite tree, so named for the explosive sound of the ripe fruit as it splits into segments as it disperses seeds considerable distances from the mother plant.

Sandbox trees can grow to 60 metres tall and the large leaves grow to two feet wide. They are monoecious. The red flowers have no petals. Male flowers grow on long spikes; female flowers are solitary in axils. The fruit is a large capsule with explosive dehiscence. One source states that ripe pods catapult the seeds as far as 100 metres. It has also been known as the Dynamite tree, so named for the explosive sound of the ripe fruit as it splits into segments. This tree prefers wet soil, and partial shade or partial sun to full sun. It is often cultivated for shade.

Fishermen have been said to use the milky, caustic sap from this tree to poison fish. The Caribs made arrow poison from its sap. The wood is used for furniture under the name "hura". Before more modern forms of pens were invented, the trees' unripe seed pods were sawed in half to make decorative pen sandboxes (also called pounce pots), hence the name 'sandbox tree'.

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