This tree, which can be seen in many parts of Rio de Janeiro is one of the strangest things around. The campus of Rio’s Federal University (UFRJ) on Fundão Island had a large grove of those trees and last week I took some time to photograph them.
It is a large tree covered with fruits about 10-15 cm in diameter. The fruits are hard, but supposedly have soft white meat inside, which, according to one website, “is edible and sometimes eaten.” Eating it is in uncommon, they say, because it smells bad. I have never seen the insides intact, however, since it rots quickly once the fruit falls on the ground.
I saw it first two years ago and asked people then what it was. Most people either called it “fruta pão” or said they didn’t know what it was. It wasn’t actually the bread fruit, however, which looks quite different. I wouldn’t have known what it was, if not for a visitor to this website who left a comment on my 2004 picture and told me this was “abricó de macaco” (monkey’s apricot). After I did a search for “abricó de macaco” I learned that this was “couroupita guianensis”, alternatively called “castanha de macaco” (monkey nut) Portuguese and “cannonball tree” in English. I also learned that according to Globo (one of Brazil’s main larger newspapers) “the heavy fruits of abricó-de-macaco can cause accidents when the plant is used in landscaping.” No kidding – if one of those things fell on Newton’s head we probably wouldn’t have the theory of gravity.