Brachychiton acerifolius and hybrids
Illawarra Flame Tree
About 31 species of Brachychiton exist, with all but one considered endemic to Australia. Most are deciduous with the exception of Brachychiton populneus. Brachychiton is considered to be hardy in most soils although different tolerances will be found amongst the various species. Overall considered to be a spectacular Australian native tree flowering profusely often when the tree is bare of leaves. Apart from the beauty of the tree the timber was often used in the past for shingles and fences in outback Australia.
Illawarra Flame tree is one of the most underused trees in the south-eastern Australian streetscape. The few trees that can be found throughout Victoria show a tree that succeeds in many conditions. Many of the trees listed in Spencer’s Horticultural flora of south-eastern Australia are over 75 years old, and many are planted in dry, difficult sites.
Illawarra Flame Tree is known for its evergreen, maple-like foliage and stunning flower display. The name “Flame Tree” comes from the masses of bright scarlet flowers that come out just before Christmas. These flowers are frequently followed by long follicle fruits. These fruits don’t seem to have the itchy character found with Kurrajong, B. populneus.
B. acerifolius comes from disjunct populations from the Cape York Peninsula southwards to the Shoalhaven region of New South Wales, but the greatest concentration of the population is in the dryer areas of the Illawarra Range.
Spencer, R. 1997 Horticultural flora of south-eastern Australia. Volume 2. University of New South Wales Press.
Typical mature height: typically 8-20m
Useful in: parks, nature strips, carparks
Sites for best growth: many, including hostile