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Origin and Habitat: Eastern Australia. It grows scattered from Paterson, New South Wales (32° S) to Mackay, Queensland (21° S). There's also an isolated community of these trees at Cape York Peninsula.
Habitat and ecology: Brachychiton discolor is a rainforest tree scattered through the coastal scrubs of Eastern Australia and in the warm inland areas to the Bunya Mountain. It tends to grow in the dryer parts of the rain forests in Semi-evergreen Vine Thickets. The structure of the ecological community consists of an open canopy of stunted trees over a dense understorey. It comprises a mix of semi-evergreen and evergreen species, with a few deciduous emergent trees. The trees support occasional epiphytes and a diversity of vines. There are no palms.
- Brachychiton discolor F.Muell.
Brachychiton discolor F.Muell.
Fragm. (Mueller) 1: 1 1858
- Brachychiton discolor F.Muell.
- Brachychiton paradoxus subs. discolor (F.Muell.) A.Terracc.
- Brachychiton paradoxus var. discolor (F.Muell.) A.Terracc.
- Clompanus discolor (F.Muell.) Kuntze
- Sterculia discolor (F.Muell.) Benth.
- Brachychiton luridus C.Moore ex F.Muell.
ENGLISH: Flame kurrajong, Quinsland Lace Bark Tree, Kurrajong, Brush Bottle Tree, Lacebark, Lace Tree, Sycamore, Hat Tree, White Kurrajong, Scrub Bottle Tree, Pink Kurrajong, Lace Kurrajong, Lacebark Tree, Pink Flame Tree
Description: The Lacebark tree (Brachychiton discolor) is a deciduous, tree belonging to an Australian genus closely related to Sterculia. The tree is very decorative, high-headed, without buttresses but slightly bottle-shaped in the bole (caudiciform), with smooth greenish bark and grows 20-30 metres tall, the tallest of the Bottle trees. Usually narrowly pyramidal in youth, it becomes more widely spreading in maturity, but smaller when seen in parks and gardens, though retaining its distinctive form. It supports a dense canopy of large, somewhat maple-like leaves, dark green above and woolly-white beneath and dark green above that fall just before the flowers appear. Myriad of furry large red-pink flowers cover the plant in early summer, they occur in clusters at the ends of the branches are very spectacular and are followed by rusty-red seed capsules which contain many large seeds. One of the attributes of B. discolor is the featured “carpeting” of the ground with fallen blossoms, which tend to carry their full colour for several days after dropping.
Derivation of specific name: discolor. Latin 'dis' unlike and 'color' colour...two different colours, referring to the dark green upper leaf surface and the contrasting white or paler underside.
Stems: The trunk (caudex) is straight and oblong, up to 75 cm in diameter, with smooth grey bark. Not buttressed at the base. The young twigs are hairy, brown and smooth. The timber is white soft when cut but dries hard.
Leaves: Hairy; lobed in three, five or seven points. Lamina 8-20 cm in long, cordate at base, nearly orbicular shortly acuminate angular or adult leaves usually shallowly 5-lobed, juvenile leaves deeply 5–7-lobed, lobes acuminate. Whitish underneath with a very close tomentum, dark green glabrous above. Leaf veins visible on both sides. The leaves fall just before the flowers appear. Following sudden cold weather, the entire tree may be bare for a period.
Flowers: The flowers are large bell-shaped, with uniseriate perianth (corolla absent), rose to deep pink backed by short brown wool, almost without stalks, 3 to 4-5 cm in diameter. Calyx to 5 long broadly campanulate tomentose inside and out with fine stellate hairs and sparse soft bristles to 2 mm long and divided to the middle into broad petal like lobes with induplicate margins. Male and female flowers are separate.
Phenology season: Flowers in early summer from November to February. Fruits maturing from December to July.
Fruits. Stalk usually 10–20 mm long The fruit is a boat shaped follicle, 7 to 20 cm long and 3–5 cm wide, acuminate, densely rusty pubescent outside, containing up to 30 seeds, 9 mm long. The capsule contains irritant, glochid-like, hairs and should by handled wearing gloves.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Floyd, A.G., "Rainforest Trees of Mainland South-eastern Australia", Inkata Press 1989
2) Wikipedia contributors. "Brachychiton discolor." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 Sep. 2015. Web. 6 Jan. 2016.
3) "Brachychiton discolor". PlantNET - NSW Flora Online. Text by G. J. Harden . Web. 6 Jan. 2016.
4) Elliot & Jones “Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants” Volume 2, Lothian Books
5) Kirsten Albrecht Llamas “Tropical flowering plants: a guide to identification and cultivation” Timber Pr Inc,
6) H. Wild “Flora Zambesiaca” FZ, Vol 1, Part 2, page 517, 1961
7) George Bentham, Ferdinand von Mueller “Flora Australiensis: A Description of the Plants of the Australian Territory. Ranunculaceae to Anacardiaceae”, Volume 1 Reeve, 1863
8) “Brachychiton discolor” Australian Native Plants Society (Australia) – ANPSA . Web. 6 Jan. 2016.
9) Mildred E. Mathias “Flowering Plants in the Landscape” University of California Press, 07 February 1985
10) Michael G. Simpson “Plant Systematics” Academic Press, 09 August 2011
11) R. J. Streets, Robert Scott Troup “Exotic forest trees in the British Commonwealth” Clarendon Press, 1962
12) Laurel Glen “Botanica's trees & shrubs: over 1000 pages & over 2000 plants listed” Laurel Glen Publishing, 1999
13) Australian Government – Department of the Environment “Semi-evergreen Vine Thickets with Bottle Tree (Brachychiton spp.) Emergents” <https://www.environment.gov.au/node/14567> Web. 6 Jan. 2016.
14) New South Wales Goverenment - Office of Environment & Heritage “Dry Rainforests” <http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/VegClass.aspx?vegClassName=Dry%20Rainforests> Web. 6 Jan. 2016.
Cultivation and Propagation: Brachychiton discolor are quite easily grown from seed and reasonably common in cultivation. It is hardy in a range of climates although it may be slow growing. It is partly to completely deciduous before flowering, similar to Brachychiton acerifolius. Grow in good light, don't over-water and provide a minimum winter temperature of 5-13° C as they cannot tolerate frost. Make sure the area chosen for planting is a hot dry spot. Despite its adaptations to dry climates, it will thrive in rainy climates provided it has a well drained soil. Saplings can be effectively grown in containers for many years before becoming too large and requiring to be planted into the ground. In this manner one can move them out of the cold into a warm position in a glasshouse or indoors behind a sunny window to prevent frost damage. It can be also trained as a bonsai tree or caudex plant.
**Growth rate: This unusual tree is slow-growing.
Watering: Brachychiton discolor is quite drought tolerant, and water requirements are medium, be cautious not to over water. Do not water during winter when the plant is dormant.
Uses: The white timber is soft when cut but dries hard, the aborigines use it for shields, as it is extremely light and yet tough. It is also used for turnery, box wood, and plywood.
Garden uses: This tree is especially handsome for avenue planting where there is ample accumulated sun heat. Single or grouped specimens may also serve as a focal point or an interesting mass. The tree is best in deep soil in hotter areas. Great for large containers or cactus gardens in warmer climates. Roasted seeds edible to humans.
Reproduction:*** Propagation from seed is relatively easy without any pretreatment. The seeds are surrounded in the capsule by irritant hairs and are best collected using gloves. Propagation may also be carried out by grafting onto Brachychiton acerifolius or Brachychiton populneus. Sow in trays, pots, etc in a well-drained seedling mixture containing 40:40:20 mix of garden soil, river sand and compost in a propagator or warm place with a minimum of 25°C to a soil depth of 5cm. The optimum temperature required is 27°C, with 30°C for maximum germination and plant growth. Seeds are best sown in spring and summer. Germination may take from two to six weeks (or even more). They grow reasonably quickly when they are young.
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