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Brachychiton bidwillii: Little Kurrajong

Lawrie Smith

Origin: The Little Kurrajong is found growing naturally from south-eastern Queensland to Bowen in scrub, dry rainforest and inside the edge of open hardwood forest, but always in situations with high light levels.

Form: It is a variable species, mostly an open shrub of about two metres tall, but may sometimes develop as a small tree on a single stem reaching to 4 metres.

Foliage: The foliage is one of its distinctive features with five lobed felty leaves reminiscent of the form of a human hand. Most forms of B. bidwillii drop their leaves immediately before flowering which enhances the spectacular floral display.

Flowering: Bell shaped flowers up to 30 mm long and 15 mm wide, vary from orange-red to salmon pink and are held in clusters. As the plants age, flower production increases, and after 8 years or so they may produce spectacular massed displays of hundreds of flowers almost covering the trunk, adding to the usual display clustered along twigs and branches. Is this Australia's answer to the Cherry Blossom?

Brachychiton bidwillii
Brachychiton bidwillii
Photo: Kerry Rathie

Availability: Selected forms of the Little Kurrajong are becoming more readily available from specialist nurseries where grafted plants with the best flowering habit have been produced to ensure vivid flower displays over many months in spring.

Suitability: This very ornamental shrub or small tree is little-known in cultivation but is widely suitable for tropical, subtropical or coastal regions. It can be slow growing in some situations, but starts flowering when very small. All forms are frost-resistant and are drought-tolerant from a very early age.

Special attributes: Brachychiton bidwillii tolerates a wide range of soil types provided they are well drained. It flowers best in full sun and responds well to pruning to improve form and to maximise flowering.

Editor's Note (Jan Sked): The rusty coloured, densely hairy seed follicles are about 7-12 cm long and contain rows of black seeds covered in a brittle hairy coating. These seeds can be roasted and eaten or ground and used to brew a sort of coffee. This plant occurs naturally in the foothills of the mountains in the Pine Rivers Shire. If grows quite readily from seed and I have two specimens in my garden. Both are quite open and spindly, but I have seen more compact and floriferous specimens from other areas. It is also known to hybridise quite readily with Brachychiton discolor, the Lacebark Tree.

From the newsletter of the Pine Rivers Group of the Society for Growing Australian Plants (Queensland), November 2007 issue.

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Australian Plants online - 2007
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants