The splashes of colour and vitality of Far North Queensland are part of what makes it such a wonderful destination, especially considering it’s such a serene and soothing place. And one live-in resident that adds to this chromatic frenzy, in such a graceful manner, is the Illawarra flame tree, scientifically named Brachychiton acerifolius.
A small to medium sized tree which can fire up to 40 metres in height, the flame tree is Queensland’s biblical incarnation of the burning bush. This striking looking tree has bell-shaped, scarlet coloured flowers, which form in clusters at the end of its branches.
At the ends of these flowers lie large leather pods which host corn-like seeds. These thin seeds contain a nutritious foodstuff within, which were eaten by Aborigines after toasting. The seeds can also be collected to propagate this wonderful specimen, although if choosing to do so, it’s best to use gloves due to the irritant hairs they contain.
When in bloom, Brachychiton acerifolius is arguably the most spectacular of Australia’s native trees. Typically deciduous year-round, it flowers in late spring, therefore anyone travelling in north-eastern Australia at present could see this tree in full-fire. Keep in mind this feat takes 5-8 years to perform from seedling, so it’s a well-prepared show.
Although entirely native to the tropical regions of Australia’s east coast, the flame tree is now accustomed to temperate climates, as it’s cultivated the world over for its remarkable beauty. However, its full-growth potential is only reached in its original, warmer climate of north-eastern Australia, where you may be fortunate enough to encounter a fiery whopper.
Besides international plant lovers, Brachychiton acerifolius attracts insects, birds, butterflies, and the many Australian’s who flock in droves to gaze upon the fiery foliage of this unique and wonderful specimen.