Powerful Plants 3

There’s one tree species I’ve been holding out on for a while.

Sure, it doesn’t take over an area quite like the last two examples, but it’s still pretty impressive if you ask me.

Today we’re going to talk about Hura Crepitans, also known as the Sandbox Tree.

File:Honolulu-GraceCooke-sandboxtree-full.JPG

Native to the tropical regions of North and South America, including the Amazon rainforest, this evergreen tree prefers wet soil, and partial shade or partial sun to full sun. It is often cultivated for shade, and can grow up to a towering 60 metres (200 ft) tall!  The flowers have no petals, because this is what happens when Dryads join the Unseelie court.

What do I mean?

Let’s take a closer look:

The trunk of a sandbox tree (Hura crepitans).

Yes, it’s a tree covered in thorns.

That’s just for starters.  As we go on, I’d like you, dear reader, to picture something for me.  It’s an exercise I like to do whenever I find out about a pretty crazy tree or plant.

Picture a forest of these.  The soft daylight filtering through the leaves in the tropical heat, the birds nesting in the branches (possibly the Shrike, considering all the thorns), the swaying limbs in the breeze, as nothing but these trees, each covered in thorns, can be seen for miles around, towering over the landscape.

Are you picturing it?

Green Leafed Trees during Day Time

Good.

Now, as you walk through this forest of dappled light and spiky pillars, you find your way to a small pond where a few of the trees have been knocked into the water by an older dead one, split open as they fell.  The pond has dead fish floating in it.

That’s because these trees are also poisonous.

Fisherman have used the milky, caustic sap from this tree to poison fish, and natives have used it to make poison arrows.  No roasting marshmallows on a stick or letting it get on a wound suffered in combat.  A punji pit made with fresh green branches supplies its own limited form of poison.

Ewoks just got even more deadly.

File:Hura crepitans 03.jpg

So you thread your way carefully, when you hear some popping or banging way in the distance.  See, this tree doesn’t spread its seeds through wind or fruit, or even spores.  No, that’d be too simple for this tree.

This tree spreads its seeds through ballistics.

Leaves and seed capsule of a sandbox tree (Hura crepitans).

See that seed pod?  When the time is ripe, they explode, launching sharp wooden hooks at 70 metres per second (160 mph).

Not something you want to be caught in the middle of.

They are why this plant is called, among other things, the Dynamite Tree.  (Personally, my favorite is the people who gave this tree a name that translates as “Monkey no-climb”.)

Now imagine if some group were crazy or cruel enough to take this tree and use it for tree shaping.

Or if someone cast Awaken on it.

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