November 2019

Candle trees of Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
November 2019

Candle trees are native to Central America and bear long, thin fruits on the trunk and branches.

Among the green foliage that lines the avenues of the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, visitors can discover several wonderful sights. The yellow candles that appear to hang from the branches of a tree, known as the candle tree is one such wonder.

Words: Gayathri Kothalawala.
Photography: Menaka Aravinda.

Through the gates at the main entrance of the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, the verdant landscape looks like a tropical paradise. The park is home to numerous plant and flower species that are endemic to the island as well as those introduced from overseas. On a visit to the Garden, we came across what we thought at first was a yellow candle on the ground at the base of a tree.

Intrigued by the sight, we drew closer to the tree, bearing a plaque with its name ‘Candle Tree.' Its branches extended in all directions, sprouting thousands of small leaves. The long, thin fruits, which resemble candlesticks, grew out of both the branches and the trunk. Several more fruits were lying around the base of the tree, some in an upright position, further reminding us of the long, thin votive candles waiting to be lit. However, despite its resemblance to a candle, the fruit of this tree cannot be lit.

Walking along the pathway, we continued to spot more candle trees. The white bell-shaped flower seemed to grow directly in the trunk of the tree, before bearing the fruit. The green colour of the unripe fruit, slowly turns into a greenish-yellow, which becomes a vivid yellow as the fruit becomes ripe. 

The fruit of the tree is eaten raw or cooked in the West Indies and other countries. Its bark and roots are said to have medicinal properties.

The fruit of the candle tree has a hard, leathery texture. Its fibrous flesh has an aroma similar to June plums (ambarella). The candle tree (Parmentiera cereifera) is a native of Central America and is considered to be an ornamental tree. Known as it.ipandam gasa (Sinhala for candle tree) in Sri Lanka, the fruit of the tree is eaten raw or cooked in the West Indies and other countries. Its bark and roots are believed to contain medicinal properties.

Near the Great Circle, we came across a candle tree bearing a large number of fruits. However, rather than the fruit, the leaves attracted our attention. The compound leaves are formed by three leaflets joined to a single stem, with a similar compound leaf growing on the opposite side.

An oasis of flora, the Peradeniya Botanic Garden offers several wonders within its extensive premises. From flowering shrubs to towering trees and the birds and butterflies that dart through the gardens, a visitor can immerse in the beauty of nature while strolling along its peaceful avenues.

Additional information

Visiting time: 7.30am - 6pm
Ticketing hours: 7.30am - 5pm

Entrance fees: Adults and children

Above 12 years: RS. 2,000
Below 12 years: RS. 1,000

Above 12 years: RS. 100
Below 12 years: RS. 20

School & University Students:
RS. 1,200

Buggy cart 
7-seater: RS. 2,000 per hour
3-seater: RS. 1,000 per hour

Make sure to wear: 
hats, sunglasses and comfortable shoes. Carry a bottle of water and an umbrella with you.

Orchid House 
The visitor can enjoy sights of well-tended gardens. A pathway lined by colourful bushes leads to the Orchid House, where orchids of different shapes, sizes and hues including the Dove Orchid, grow in abundance. The fountain in front of the structure is the home for a group of small turtles.

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    As the fruits ripen, the leathery surface turns from green to yellow.

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    The compound leaves are formed by three leaflets.

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    The bell-shaped flower blooms directly on the trunk.

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    Ripe fruit sometimes land upright on the ground, resembling candles.

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