Common Name: Queensland Bottle tree, Narrow Leafed Bottle Tree, Queensland-Flaschenbaum or Kurrajong.
Etymology: Brachychiton: Greek ‘brachys’ means short and ‘chiton’ means a coat or tunic, a reference to the coating on the seed. rupestris: Latin meaning living among hills or rocky outcrops.
Origin: Central Queensland to northern New South Wales, Australia.
Description: Deciduous small to medium tree with a potential to grow up to 20m in height (but generally much smaller) with a 5-12m canopy. Tree is characterised by its unmistakable bulbous trunk.
Foliage: Leaves are different for adult trees and juveniles. The adult leaf blades are 40–110mm long and 8–20mm wide with pointed acuminate or apiculate tips and raised midrib on top and bottom of leaf. The juvenile leaves are compound and have 3–9 spear-shaped (lanceolate) or linear lobes 40–140mm long by 3–10mm wide. Tree will drop its leaves between October-December during flowering season and will thin out in times of drought.
Bark/Trunk: Trunk starts out green/light grey when young but gradually develops into dark grey with deep fissures. Bottle shape usually develops in approximately five to eight years.
Flowers: Creamy to yellowish bell-shaped flowers in clusters at the ends of the branches but are not especially conspicuous, flowering between October and December.
Fruit: Seed capsules which follow flowering are woody boat-shaped follicles, ripening November to May.
Growth Requirements: Grows best in full sun position with well drained, slightly acidic soil. Its natural soil that consists of medium to heavy clay, silt, sand and volcanic rock. The tree is, however, very hardy and will tolerate a variety of climates and soil types.
Uses: Ornamental feature tree for parks or gardens, Australian native, shade tree, wind protection, street tree and even Bonsai. More traditional uses by the Aboriginal people were to eat the roots and seeds (seeds are covered by irritating hairs that were roasted off), fibrous bark was used to make rope and twine for baskets and fishing nets and holes were cut into soft bark to create reservoirs for drinking.
Propagation: From seed or cutting (cutting from semi-mature growth). Gloves need to be worn when handling seed due to irritating hairs on seed. No preparation is needed when growing tree by seed. Trees grown from seed can take up to 20 years to flower usually when adult leaves form. A popular way of getting a mature tree is transplantation as it can tolerate up to 3 months between removal and being replanted.
Sources of information:
- Photography by Simon Schubert and Minako Howarth.