illawarra flame tree

The Brachychiton acerifolius, the Flame Tree, is originally from Eastern Australia.

Brachychiton is derived from the Greek brachys, meaning short and chito meaning tunic or cover, in reference to the persistent outer covering of the seed. Acerifolius refers to the genus Acer L., from the Latin acer, -is and folium, -ii, leaf, because of the similarity of the leaves with those of the maple. Popular names refer to the colour and intensity of flowering.

A deciduous tree, with a pyramidal crown and it has a straight trunk with greyish, ridged bark that gets rough over time. It reaches 8-12 metres high and in some cases up to 30 m.

Its leaves are stipulated, with 5 deep lobes, as well as being trilobate, glabrous, and coriaceous, in a bright green colour. The inflorescences are in open axillary panicles that appear when the tree is almost without foliage, with up to 200 flowers each that are bright red and bell-shaped. The fruit is an elongated woody follicle, with 16-26 ovoid seeds per yellow follicle.

It is a fast-growing tree with a powerful root system that does not flower until it reaches maturity. It prefers sun exposure or medium shade and tolerates small droughts.

The aborigines use the fibre of their bark to weave and from the seeds they obtain dye. Its wood is also used to make surfboards.