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Brachychiton

Sterculiaceae
Deciduous, Evergreen, Trees

Native to Australia. All have woody, canoe-shaped fruits that delight flower arrangers but are merely litter in the view of some gardeners. Grow in well-drained soil. Tend to form strong central leader; require minimal pruning. Blooming habit and leaf drop in the two deciduous species, B. acerifolius and B. discolor, can be most erratic. Young trees often bloom only in sections of the tree rather than all over it; those parts will drop their leaves while nonblooming areas retain their foliage. Older trees tend to produce blooms on all branches and drop all their leaves before flowers appear. Bloom is best after a dry winter.

Brachychiton discolor (photo courtesy of Joshua McCullough/PhytoPhoto)
Brachychiton discolor (photo courtesy of Joshua McCullough/PhytoPhoto)

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Brachychiton discolor

Briefly deciduous. To 40–60 ft. tall; pyramidal in youth but more spreading (to about 30 ft.) in maturity. Ornamental bottle-shaped trunk. Leaves, only 6 in. wide, are narrower than those of B. acerifolius and are blue-green on top, whitish underneath. Leaves on young trees are deeply lobed; lobes become shallower as tree ages. Large, bell-like, deep rose-pink flowers appear in summer, then carpet the ground under the tree. Blossoms and subsequent fruit are densely covered with rusty wool on outside.

Brachychiton populneus
Brachychiton populneus

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Brachychiton populneus

Moderate growth to 30–50 ft. tall, 30 ft. wide. Common name refers to the heavy trunk of mature trees, which is broad at the base, tapering toward the top. Leaves (2–3 in. long) are fresh green year-round, shimmer in breeze like those of aspens. Clusters of small, bell-shaped white flowers in late spring are only noticeable close up.

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