If I had to pick one of the top two or three fave botanicals we offer, the "Jungle Pod" would be right up there. Useful, attractive, and durable- it's got all the elements for botanical-style aquarium "superstardom!"
Let's take a closer look at it.
First off, the term "Jungle Pod" is a charming, yet utterly meaningless holdover from "Tannin 1.0", where we conjured up cute names for obscure seed pods and such to make them more interesting for our customers. Prior to 2015, when we debuted, I'm virtually certain that you won't find a reference for this botanical under that name...
It's actually the fruit, or "follicle" (as botanists call it) of the jungle tree Sterculia foetida. Calling it a "pod" is a little stretch, actually- but not much! (Unless you're a botanist, in which case your colleagues would just hate on you...) Also known locally in Southeast Asia as the "Java Olive." In the Indian region of its distribution (Tamil Nadu), it's referred to as "Jangli Badam" or "Pinari" in Hindi.
Okay, I'm sticking with our fictitious name...for now. However, I reserve the right to change it to a more appropriate name at any time! 🤓 Be forewarned, lol.
Interestingly, it's found in the crevices of rocks, by stream banks, etc., in full sun. And of course, this makes it a total candidate for inclusion in an Indian or Southeast Asian biotope-style aquarium!
Now, the genus name, Sterculia, means "bad smelling", and the origin is from the Roman god, Sterquilinus, the "god of manure or feces"...Seriously, we don't make this stuff up! (and no, we'll never go so lowbrow as to call this botanical the "Shit Pod", but it did come up in some internal company discussions, I admit....😜
Got to hand it to the Romans!
Now, in fairness to our botanical, Sterculia, it's the flower which supposedly smells like...well- you know where I'm going!
Such an indignation for a beautiful and useful botanical, wouldn't you say? Let's give it some more love!
Our beloved Sterculia foetida belongs to the family Malvaceae, which includes such diverse and well-known members as Okra, cotton, Cocao, and Durian. The genus Sterculia has over 250 members! Typically found in areas like India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, this species and others of its family have been transplanted to as far- ranging an area as Hawaii.
The fruits grow in star-like clusters on the tree, and the woody color is a beautiful contrast to the dark green leaves. Botanists would describe these unique fruits as follows: "An aggregate of follicle of 1-5, scarlet, boat shaped, 5-lobed, woody, glabrous; seeds black, numerous, ellipsoid, smooth, with a small yellow aril."
We just call 'em cool!
(My, that's a fine cluster of...follicles! Image by J.M. Gargan, used under CC BY-SA 4.0)
The oil of this fruit is comparable in composition to sunflower and soybean oils for use as...a biofuel! The seeds are thought to be edible after roasting, although I've not encountered any "recipes" for them! Supposedly, they taste like peanuts- I'll take the botanists' word for it. Interestingly, when they are bearing seeds, the exterior is a beautiful bright red color in many varieties!
The unique-looking botanical is a near perfect shelter for many fishes and inverts in the aquarium. Its durable shell lasts a very long time submerged.
It is interesting to note that research has been done on potential pharmaceutical benefits of the leaves, roots, and seeds of the tree, and there have been some potentially useful medicinal benefits. It is unlikely and downright irresponsible for us to make any type of assumption that these may "translate" over to aquatic use, vis a vis fish health.
Oh, and I did find another scientific paper which postulated that Sterculia foetida fruit shell extract offers an excellent potential as coloration, antibacterial, and ultraviolet protective agent for silk fabric.
What we can confidently say is that these botanicals, like pretty much every seed pod or leaf we place in the aquarium, will leach some amount of tannins, lignin, and other organics into the water over time. You certainly wouldn't use "Jungle Pods" for the sole purpose of providing "tint" to your water, but you would be perfect using them for aesthetics and utility as a shelter.
At the end of the day, the "Jungle Pod" is truly one of the most useful, attractive, and versatile botanicals you can add to your aquarium. Not a day goes by that we don't find ourselves thinking of some new application for them in an aquarium, terrarium, or vivarium. As more and more hobbyists find their way into our little botanical world, I am pretty sure that we'll hear of more and more ideas on how to utilize them!
Stay creative. Stay inspired. Stay curious. Stay excited...
And Stay Wet.