Brachychiton acerifolius: Illawarra Flame Tree

The Illawarra Flame Tree, a standout native Australian plant, boasts vibrant red flowers. It’s a popular choice for gardeners seeking a dramatic focal point.

The Illawarra Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius) is a sight to behold. When it blooms, the red flowers create a blazing canopy that’s hard to miss. It’s not just about the looks; this tree is also known for its resilience, making it a fantastic choice for Australian gardeners. If you’ve been searching for a tree that combines both aesthetics and hardiness, the Illawarra Flame Tree might just be the answer.

Family: Malvaceae

  • A large family of flowering plants known as the mallow family.
  • Encompasses a variety of plants like herbs, shrubs, and trees.
  • Showy flowers and palmate or lobed leaves are typical traits.
  • Found widely across Australia in rainforests, woodlands, and coastal regions.
  • The family includes flowering plants like the Illawarra Flame Tree, Queensland bottle tree, and others known for their unique floral characteristics.

Illawarra Flame Tree: Basic Information

  • Common Name: Illawarra Flame Tree
  • Scientific Name: Brachychiton acerifolius
  • Origin: Australia
  • Plant Type: Medium to large tree
  • Size: 10-20 meters in height, 5-10 meters in width
  • Leaf Type: Large, lobed, palmate, green. It’s not uncommon for the tree to shed leaves during flowering.
  • Flower Colour: Bright red


Brachychiton acerifolius flower | Plant Profiles

The Illawarra Flame Tree’s most striking feature is its bright red, bell-shaped flowers that cluster during spring and summer, making the tree resemble a flame.

Besides the vibrant flowers, the tree has large, green palmate leaves. It may shed leaves during the flowering season.

Post-flowering, the tree produces woody capsules containing small, winged seeds.

Natural Habitat

Native to Australia, it’s commonly found in the Illawarra region of New South Wales and other parts of Queensland and the Northern Territory.

How to Grow Illawarra Flame Tree

Brachychiton acerifolius tre | Plant Profiles

Growing the Illawarra Flame Tree can bring vibrant colour and an interesting focal point to gardens. While it’s not uncommon, it’s also not every day you see such a captivating tree in someone’s garden.

Growing Conditions:

  • Soil: Well-drained of varied types, pH 6.0-7.5
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Climate: Temperate to sub-tropical, with limited frost tolerance

Planting Guide:

  • Timing: Spring or early summer
  • Spacing: Keep a minimum of 5-10 meters between each plant

Care and Maintenance:

  • Watering: Regular, especially in dry spells
  • Pruning: Late winter or early spring
  • Mulching: Organic mulch around the base, replenish yearly
  • Feeding: Balanced slow-release fertilizer

Pest and Disease Control:

Brachychiton acerifolius typically doesn’t face any specific pest or disease threats.

Special Features

  • The tree’s radiant red flowers steal the show.
  • Its leaves resemble those of a maple tree.
  • Remarkable drought tolerance.

Wildlife and Pollinators

Lorikeets, honeyeaters, and other bird species, as well as various insects, are attracted to the tree’s nectar-rich flowers.

Uses in the Garden and Beyond

Often used as a feature tree, it needs space due to its size. While it doesn’t have culinary or medicinal uses, its drought resistance and support for local wildlife are noteworthy environmental benefits.

Brachychiton populneus x acerifolius

Brachychiton populneus x acerifolius is a hybrid plant resulting from the cross between two species of Brachychiton trees: Brachychiton populneus and Brachychiton acerifolius.

Brachychiton populneus is commonly known as the Kurrajong tree. It’s an Australian native known for its slender trunk and glossy leaves.

When these two trees crossbreed, the resulting hybrid can display a mix of characteristics from both parent species. This might include aspects of leaf shape, flowering habits, and overall growth patterns.

Popular Brachychiton populneus x acerifolius cultivars include:

1. Brachychiton populneus × acerifolius ‘Jerilderie Red’ – A tall tree with a dense canopy, reaching around 8m in height and 7m wide. It has a unique trunk, large lobed leaves, and showcases powdery-red bell-like flowers in summer.

2. Brachychiton populneus × acerifolius ‘Bella Pink – A shade tree growing up to 8m tall and 4m wide. It boasts glossy green leaves and presents clusters of salmon pink, bell-shaped flowers in the summer months. This tree attracts birds due to its vibrant flowers.

Illawarra Flame Tree FAQ

How do I handle the seed pods of the Illawarra Flame Tree?

Be cautious, the hairs inside the seed pods can irritate the skin and eyes.

What were some traditional uses of the Illawarra Flame Tree?

Indigenous Australians utilised the inner bark fibre for making fishing nets and lines.

Are there any notable issues with the Illawarra Flame Tree?

Due to its size, it might not be suitable for smaller gardens. Always ensure ample space for growth.

Photo of author

Linda Jones

Based in sunny Brisbane, Linda has a keen interest in ornamental plants. She firmly believes that gardens are as much about aesthetics as they are about functionality. Despite being a life-long gardener, she still enjoys learning about new plants and gardening techniques and sharing her discoveries with the Ultimate Backyard community. When she's not immersed in her garden, Linda loves reading and walking.


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