Botanical Name: Brachychiton populneus
Species: B. populneus
Synonyms: Brachychiton diversifolium.
Common Names: Kurrajong, Bottletree, Kurrajong
Habitat: Brachychiton populneus is native to Australia – New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, Victoria . It grows in the coastal and sub-coastal areas on a variety of soils but favouring limestone.
Brachychiton populneus is a wide-spreading evergreen or semi-deciduous tree with a dense crown; it can grow 10 – 20 metres tall. In open situations the tree has a short, stocky bole which may reach a diameter of 50 – 100cm. The extended trunk is a water storage device for survival in a warm dry climate. The bell-shaped flowers are variable in colour (pale to pink) while the leaves vary considerably in shape. The leaves are either simple and pointed, or may be 3–9 lobed. Saplings grow from a drought and fire resistant tap-rooted tuber.
The seeds and the root were popular foods for the Australian Aborigines and the seed in particular is also appreciated by Western palates. The plant is harvested from the wild and is also commonly grown as an ornamental.
Brachychiton populneus is a plant of the arid to moist tropics, subtropics and warm temperate zones, where it is found at elevations up to 1,000 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 25 – 32°c, but can tolerate 13 – 38°c. Mature plants can be killed by temperatures of -5°c or lower, but young plants will be severely damaged at -1°c. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 450 – 750mm, but tolerates 250 – 1,000mm.
Prefers a well-drained moderately fertile, slightly acidic soil in a sunny position. Succeeds in most soils, tolerating dry soils in Australian gardens. Plants dislike wet soils, especially in the winter. Prefers a pH in the range 7 – 8, tolerating 6.5 – 8.. Established plants are drought tolerant.
Trees can be cut back into old wood and usually resprout wel.
Seed – we have no details for this species but suggest sowing the seed in a nursery seedbed. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on until large enough to plant out. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth.
The seed can be eaten raw or roasted. It can also be ground into a powder and made into bread, pancakes and other baked goods. They have a rich, nutty, earthy flavour. A popular Aboriginal food, they are also acceptable to western palates, especially when roasted. Very nutritious, containing about 18% protein, 25% fat plus high levels of zinc and magnesium.
The roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute.
Root – cooked. The yam-like root is often much broader than the stem above it. The tap-roots of young trees, and the young roots of old trees, are used. When boiled they have a flavour similar to that of turnips, but sweeter. A popular food item with the Australian Aborigines. The honey-coloured sap was a popular Aborigine food.
A strong fibre is obtained from the inner bark. It is used for making cordage, nets and dilly bags.
A gum exudes from the trunk. Somewhat like gum tragacanth (Astragalus spp.) in appearance, it is produced abundantly. This gum, however, does not thicken water, except to an almost inappreciable extent, and, therefore, could not have the same economic uses to which the very viscid tragacanth is put.
The wood is soft, fibrous and useless. The heartwood is light, soft, open textured and of poor strength and durability. It is used for lattice construction and as a softwood for interior furnishes.
Known Hazards: The seed capsule contains irritant, glochid-like, hairs and should only be handled when wearing gloves.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only.