Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sea Mango (Cerbera manghas)

As a collegue rightly pointed out, this tree seemed perfectly suited for an afternoon nap. Thanks due of course, to the staff of Lalbagh Gardens, who have maintained the area around so well.
We seem to have come across the tree at the peak of its blooming season (Apr-Aug according to Flowers of India). Bunches of little white flowers and buds were all over, making a very pretty sight.

I wasn't surprised to learn that it was of the same family as the oleander (tamil: aralli) - Apocynaceae. The flowers are not very alike, but there is a similarity, especially in the flower bunch with the pink tipped buds. The leaves are much bigger than that of the oleander and resemble the plumeria quite a bit. Called 'kaate arralli' (jungle arralli) in Tamil, it is just as poisonous as the oleander. The leaves and fruits contain cerberin, a toxic substance. And with that we segue to its botanical name - Cerbera manghas. For those of you who know tamil, perhaps like me, you wonder if manghas comes from the tamil word for mango (manga), especially as you realize that the common name of this tree is 'sea mango'. And if you know something of Greek mythology, then remember cerberus? the three headed dog that guarded the gates of the underworld? it is indeed this dog that lends its name to the toxic Cerbera manghas.

The sea mango is native to the Pacific islands, south east Asia and Madagascar.

1 comment:

radha said...

Very beautiful picture. The tree is amazing. Never seen this or the earlier picture of the octopus tree.