Munghorn Gap, NSW

sapling (cult.)

Natural populations

Brachychiton populneus comprises two subspecies [1]:

Brachychiton populneus is a tree up to 20 m in height, which usually has a relatively short bole and a densely-foliaged crown. Like other species in this genus, some trees are semi-deciduous in early summer. Brachychiton populneus occurs in a wide range of habitats and soils, from deep sandy loams on plains, to skeletal types on rocky hilltops [1,2].

Flowering and seeds

This species flowers from October to March [1,3]. The woody follicles mature about 3-6 months later. The seeds are encased in a mass of prickly fibres which can cause irritation to the skin. There are about 4 viable seeds per gram [3]. The seeds need to be pretreated to induce germination by pouring boiling water (100°C) on them and allowing them to soak until cool. The seeds start to germinate in about 6 days if grown at 25°C [3].

Cultivation and uses

Brachychiton populneus is a relatively slow growing tree that sometimes becomes semi-deciduous during early summer [1]. It is often planted as an amenity plant throughout many parts of urban Australia, and in cleared rural areas it has often been retained for its foliage as it has value as a fodder reserve for stock during droughts. The seeds were used as a traditional food source Australian Aborigines [4].

Key descriptors:
Subsp. populneus:
Climate parameters
Mean annual rainfall: 450-1000 mm
Rainfall distribution pattern: summer, uniform or winter
Mean annual temperature: 9-21 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 25-31 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: -1-4 °C
Frosts (approx. no. per year): frost free or more or less frost free, up to or greater than 20
Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C) or heavy (greater than -5°C)
Altitude: 50-1000 metres
Tolerance of climate extremes
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range or heavy frosts colder than -5°C

Subsp. trilobus:
Climate parameters
Mean annual rainfall: 350-600 mm
Rainfall distribution pattern: summer or uniform
Mean annual temperature: 18-24 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 32-35 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: 3-8 °C
Frosts (approx. no. per year): frost free or more or less frost free or up to 20
Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C)
Altitude: 0-700 metres
Tolerance of climate extremes
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range

Descriptors in common:
Tolerance of climate extremes

Drought: known to be moderately drought tolerant or known to be tolerant of protracted droughts
Fire: regenerates foliage after damaging fire
Soil factors
Texture: clay loam, heavy clay (greater than 50% clay), light to medium clay (35-50% clay) or loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam
Soil pH reaction: acidic (less than 6.5), neutral (6.5-7.5) or alkaline (greater than 7.5)
Soil depth: moderate to deep (30-100 cm or greater)
Drainage: well-drained
Salinity: slightly to moderately saline or non-saline
Tolerance of adverse soils
Extremes in pH: acidity or alkalinity
Salinity: nil - sensitive to saline soils or slight tolerance (2-4 dS m-1)
Soil waterlogging tolerance: nil - sensitive to waterlogged soils
Biological traits under cultivation
Habit: deciduous tree 10-20 m tall, usually produces a clear trunk
Growth rate: slow to moderate
Longevity: moderate to long lived (>15 years)
Coppicing ability: vigorous, responds to pruning, pollarding; lignotuberous
Root system: moderate to deep
Wood density: low (less than 600 kg/cubic metre)
Carbon sequestration potential: moderate
Potential farm use: good ornamental attributes, shelterbelt or shade for stock, foliage has stock fodder potential
Specialty products: flowers produce nectar for honey production, pollen has value for apiculture, seeds are edible (used traditionally by Aborigines)
Traditional Aboriginal uses: implements/artefacts, seeds/fruits eaten
Urban use: good as an ornamental or amenity plant, ideal maintenance free street tree
Wood products: light construction
Potentially undesirable attributes
Foliage: highly susceptible to browsing by animals
Weediness: listed at least once as a declared weed species or high potential based on its biology


[1] Boland DJ, Brooker MIH, Chippendale GM, Hall N, Hyland BPM, Johnson RD, Kleinig DA, McDonald MW, Turner JD (2006) Forest Trees of Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.

[2] Cunningham GM, Mulham WE, Milthorpe PL, Leigh JH (1992) Plants of Western New South Wales, Inkata Press.

[3] Gunn BV (2001) Australian Tree Seed Centre Operations Manual. Internal Publication, CSIRO Australian Tree Seed Centre, ACT. [Online at  Accessed March 2008]

[4] Cribb AB, Cribb JW (1975) Wild Food in Australia. William Collins: Sydney.

Internet links

Alice Spings Town Council:

PlantNET National Herbarium of New South Wales: