Flame Trees, Kurrajongs and Bottle Trees
Most people are familiar with the flame tree (Brachychiton acerifolius) with its small red flowers dangling in groups from the bare branches during spring and summer. It features in many Brisbane gardens and parks. Less well known are some of its close relatives. These trees have features in common. They have bell-shaped flowers of various colours and sizes, they tolerate a wide range of soil types (but like well drained conditions), are sun loving and can survive dry periods. Most are fully or partly deciduous during flowering. Brachychitons are good specimen tree as they are deep rooting and don’t draw water from the lawn or surrounding garden beds. They have boat-shaped seed pods and can be pruned.
For small gardens the kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus) and the little kurrajong (Brachychiton bidwilli) are ideal. The kurrajong reaches a maximum height of 15 metres. It has green-white flowers with the inner tubes streaked purple-brown. Because their natural environment is among rocky granite outcrops, they are good for pot plants and can withstand dry and pot-bound conditions. The smaller little kurrajong only grows to 6 metres and has long lasting orangey-pink to hot pink flowers that appear along the trunk and branches. The lacebark (Brachychiton discolour) is a medium tree with large deep pink appearing in clusters at the ends of branches during spring and summer.
Bottle trees are in this group. Naturally found in the drier rainforests of Boonah area, the narrow-leafed bottle tree (Brachychiton rupestris) can grow to 20 metres and has a canopy width of up to 15 m. Although its cream flowers do not put on such a spectacular display as some of its relatives, it develops an interesting bulbous trunk with water storage occurring between the inner bark and woody centre. It is slow growing and it can take eight years or more to develop this feature. Because of its slow growth, this makes a great indoor plant and for use in bonsai.