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Xylocarpus granatum

Xylocarpus granatum, Cairns, QLD. Photo: F.Zich © CSIRO

Common Names

Cannonball Mangrove [1], Apple Mangrove, Cedar Mangrove, Cannonball Tree, Monkey Puzzle Nuts, Monkey Puzzle Fruit [2].

Xylocarpus granatum habit, Cairns, QLD. Photo: F.Zich © CSIRO



Name Reference

Xylocarpus granatum J.Koenig

Origin of Name

‘Xylo-carpus’ means woody fruit (in Latin), and refers to the large and distinctly woody fruit and seeds of this genus.

‘Granatum’ means having many seeds (in Latin), and refers to the many-seeded large fruit of this species ([1]).


Tall, spreading tree with a buttressed trunk and plank-like, serpentine surface roots. The bark is reddish and flaky and the large fruit is cannon-ball shaped. It is found from Madagascar to the South West Pacific Islands and Australia.


Xylocarpus granatum (Cannonball Mangrove) is a spreading tree growing up to 22 m in height. It has red/orange-brown, irregularly fissured and flaky bark. The trunk base is usually smoothly round and lumpy with large sinuous plank buttresses, and ribbon-like sinuous and serpentine surface roots.

Xylocarpus granatum roots.jpg
Roots of Xylocarpus granatum, Singapore Photo: John Yong

The leaves are compound, up to 20 cm long, with a 2-5 cm long petiole and consist of 2-6 pairs of opposite leaflets. Juveniles may have simple leaves. The leaflets are elliptic (oval) to obovate (inversely egg-shaped), 7-11 cm long and 3-6 cm wide.

The inflorescence is 4-7 cm long and contains 8-20 small (<5 mm wide) white or pink flowers.

The fruit is a spherical, green or brown woody capsule with four distinct sections. It is 15-23 cm in diameter and splits open after falling to reveal 8-20 seeds which are 7-10 cm long [3], [4], [5], [1], [6].

Botanical Description


Tree to 22 m, columnar to spreading, evergreen; bark smooth, blotchy pale brown to orangy, flaky, thin, peeling in patches, lenticels not conspicuous; stem base smooth, buttresses plank-like sinuous; roots radiating, serpentine ribbon-like.


Leaves alternate, compound, smooth, to 20 cm L; leaflets 2-6, elliptic to obovate, green to yellow-green, 4.5-17 cm L, 2.5-9 cm W, margins entire, apices broadly rounded, variably acuminate, base cuneate, ~1 cm L; petioles 2-4 cm L.


Inflorescence axillary, many-flowered panicle to 7 cm L, spreading, irregularly branched, monoecious, male and female flowers in same inflorescence, few differences; pedicel clavate, 4-10 mm L; bracteoles minute; flowers tetramerous, glabrous, 3-5 mm W; calyx lobes 4, green, valvate, shortly united below, 1-2 mm L; petals 4, creamy white, oval, 3-7 mm L, ~2 mm W; stamens united as staminal tube, spherical, white to pink or yellowish-orange, 2.5-5 mm L, upper margin bears 8 erect apiculate lobes; anthers sessile, yellowish-green, oblong on inner tube surface, 1 mm L; ovary globose, nearly filling staminal tube; stigma disc-like, broad, orange-red, level with staminal lobes, 1 mm W; male flower with non-functional slender ovary; female flower with non-functional stamens; fruit woody capsule with 4 indistinct valves, globose, green to brown, coriaceous, shiny, to 25 cm W, splits naturally after falling to reveal 8-20 seeds.


Seeds angular, more or less tetrahedral, dull pale brown, smooth, buoyant, 7-10 cm L, testa corky; germination hypogeal, radicle developing as taproot.



Xylocarpus granatum is found in estuaries from East Africa, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, India, through Asia and Indonesia to New Guinea, the south west Pacific Islands and northern Australia. In Australia, the species occurs in estuaries and embayments across the northern coast from the Champagny Islands and the Prince Regent River, Western Australia (15° 27' S, 124° 52’ E) in the west, to Fraser Island, Queensland (25° 26' S, 152° 58’ E) in the east [1].

Localities (not complete):


Xylocarpus granatum occurs towards the high tidal zone in mangroves along tropical coastlines and within tidal estuaries influenced seasonally by freshwater flows. The species is commonly found in a variety of substrates from oozy mud to fine river sands ([1]).

High-mid intertidal, intermediate estuarine position ([1]).

Xylocarpus granatum AVH.JPG
Distribution of Xylocarpus granatum in Australia.
Image: Australia's Virtual Herbarium, 2010


Flowers from December to January, with fruits found from June to September [3], [5].

Flowers are probably insect pollinated and bees have been recorded visiting the flowers [11].

The seeds are adapted for water dispersal and are often seen on the beaches of north Queensland [3]; [6].

Other mangroves associated with this species include Heritiera littoralis, Ceriops tagal, Excoecaria agallocha and Bruguiera gymnorhiza ([1]).

Biological Interactions  
Group Taxon
  31 taxa
Vascular Plants Acanthus ilicifolius
Vascular Plants Acrostichum speciosum
Vascular Plants Aegialitis_annulata
Vascular Plants Aegiceras corniculatum
Vascular Plants Avicennia marina
Vascular Plants Bruguiera cylindrica
Vascular Plants Bruguiera exaristata
Vascular Plants Bruguiera gymnorhiza
Vascular Plants Bruguiera parviflora
Vascular Plants Camptostemon schultzii
Vascular Plants Ceriops tagal
Vascular Plants Ceriops pseudodecandra
Vascular Plants Cynometra iripa
Vascular Plants Dalbergia candenatensis
Vascular Plants Excoecaria agallocha
Vascular Plants Heritiera littoralis
Vascular Plants Lumnitzera littorea
Vascular Plants Lumnitzera racemosa
Vascular Plants Nypa fruticans
Vascular Plants Osbornia octodonta
Vascular Plants Rhizophora apiculata
Vascular Plants Rhizophora X lamarckii
Vascular Plants Rhizophora mucronata
Vascular Plants Rhizophora stylosa
Vascular Plants Scyphiphora hydrophylacea
Vascular Plants Sonneratia alba
Vascular Plants Sonneratia caseolaris
Vascular Plants Xylocarpus moluccensis
Vascular Plants Diospyros geminata
Vascular Plants Bruguiera sexangula
Vascular Plants Hibiscus tiliaceus


Xylocarpus granatum has attractive pale pink timber which is used for ornamental pieces and smoking pipe stems by Aboriginal people [6].

Further enthobotanical information can be found in [6].

Similar Species

Xylocarpus granatum is similar to X. moluccensis (Cedar Mangrove). X. granatum has larger fruit, smooth, patchy bark, buttresses and plank-like above ground roots. X. moluccensis has smaller fruit, peg-like pneumatophores and is deciduous [5].


This species is part of the Meliaceae family which is known for its timber species, such as Australian Red Cedar ( Toona australis) [5].

This species is sometimes cultivated for its novelty value. Propagate from fresh seed. It requires warm to hot tropical conditions and plenty of moisture. Seedlings are intolerant of dryness and plants can not cope with severe cold or frosts ([2]).

Xylocarpus granatum fruit2.jpg
Fruit of Xylocarpus granatum, Singapore Photo: John Yong

Peter K. L. Ng and N. Sivasothi (editors) (2001). Nyireh bunga Xylocarpus granatum. Guide to the Mangroves of Singapore.Available online at: http://mangrove.nus.edu.sg/guidebooks/text/1077.htm

-- NormDuke and EmmaClifton - 2012-01-04 - 16:56

Photo: F.Zich © CSIRO

Xylocarpus granatum fruit.jpg
Fruit of Xylocarpus granatum, Singapore Photo: John Yong


  1. Duke, N. (2011). Mangroves of Australia. Manuscript. Vers.: 27 Sept 2011. (more)
  2. Elliot, W.R. & Jones, D.L., (2010) Encyclopaedia of Australian plants suitable for cultivation Volume 9 Sp-Z. (more)
  3. Lovelock, C. (1993). Field Guide to the Mangroves of Queensland. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Qld. Available online: http://www.aims.gov.au/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=c9dcfc2e-6018-4302-8818-5ab3fe01f91f&groupId=30301 (more)
  4. Mabberley, D.J., Pannell, C.M. and Sing, A.M. (1995). Meliaceae. Flora Malesiana Series 1 (12): 1-407. (more)
  5. Duke, N.C. (2006). Australia's Mangroves. The authoritative guide to Australia's mangrove plants. University of Queensland, Brisbane. (more)
  6. Wightman, G. (2006). Mangroves of the Northern Territory, Australia: identification and traditional use. Northern Territory. Dept. of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, Palmerston. (more)
  7. Boto, K.G., Bunt, J.S. and Wellington, J.T. (1984). Variations in mangrove forest productivity in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 19(3): 321-329. Available online: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WDV-4DV0KPV-CY&_user=2322062&_coverDate=09,2F30,2F1984&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1655468263&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000056895&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2322062&md5=09397a6e327acf15899ed3f7ddc83a82&searchtype=a (more)
  8. Bunt, J.S. (1982b). Mangrove Transect Data from Northern Queensland. Coastal Studies Series, Australian Institute of Marine Science AIMS-CS-82-1. Australian Institute of Marine Science. 41 p. Available online: http://data.aims.gov.au/extpubs/attachmentDownload?docID=2326 (more)
  9. Robertson, A.I., Giddins, R. and Smith, T.J. (1990). Seed predation by insects in tropical mangrove forests: extent and effects on seed viability and the growth of seedlings. Oecologia 83: 213-219. Available online: http://www.springerlink.com/content/h6567208r2v14176/fulltext.pdf (more)
  10. Bunt, J.S. (1997). The Mangrove Floral and Vegetational Diversity of Hinchinbrook Island and the Adjacent Coast. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville. Available online: http://data.aims.gov.au/extpubs/attachmentDownload?docID=3018 (more)
  11. Tomlinson, P.B. (1986). The Botany of Mangroves. Cambridge Tropical Biology Series. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. (more)

Biological Interactions
Relation Taxon GroupSorted ascending
PollinatedBy Insects AllOrganisms
PollinatedBy Hymenoptera Insects
HasEpiphyte Bostrychia_calliptera RedAlgae
HasEpiphyte Bostrychia_simpliciuscula RedAlgae
OccursWith Acanthus_ilicifolius Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Acrostichum_speciosum Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Aegialitis_annulata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Aegiceras_corniculatum Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Avicennia_marina Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_cylindrica Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_exaristata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_gymnorhiza Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_parviflora Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_sexangula Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Camptostemon_schultzii Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Ceriops_pseudodecandra Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Ceriops_tagal Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Cynometra_iripa Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Diospyros_geminata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Diospyros_littorea Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Excoecaria_agallocha Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Heritiera_littoralis Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Hibiscus_tiliaceus Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Lumnitzera_littorea Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Lumnitzera_racemosa Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Nypa_fruticans Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Osbornia_octodonta Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_X_lamarckii Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_apiculata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_mucronata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_stylosa Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Scyphiphora_hydrophylacea Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Sonneratia_alba Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Sonneratia_caseolaris Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Xylocarpus_moluccensis Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Dalbergia_candenatensis Vascular_Plants