Succulent Gardening: The Art of Nature

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Brachychiton rupestris

Brachychiton rupestris (Queensland Bottle Tree) - A semi-deciduous tree with a large swollen trunk (sometimes referred to as a pachycaul) that grows to 60 feet in the wilds of Queensland Australia and northern New South Wales but typically is much shorter in cultivation - 30 year old trees in Santa Barbara have robust trunks to 8-12 feet tall and overall height of 20 to 25 feet. In youth this tree has a narrow straight trunk and bares fairly small narrow-dissected palmate leaves. As the tree matures the stem swells as it stores water and becomes bottle shaped and the leaves broaden and turn from compound to simple. Though this plant holds its leaves through a typical winter, the leaves drop before the cream and red flowers appear in late spring to early summer and can also drop off during times of drought stress. Plant in full sun in most any soil type and give moderate to little irrigation - trees will grow better and trunk will develop when plant is well watered but it can also tolerate very dry conditions. Hardy to 18-20° F for short durations. The species is endemic to central Queensland south into northern New South Wales and was first discovered by Sir Thomas Mitchell in 1848 on an expedition through Queensland and described by John Lindley utilizing Mitchell's choice of the genus name Delabechea to honor the director of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, Henry De la Beche and for the specific epithet used the Latin word for "living amound rocks" in reference to therocky habitat where Mitchell first observed it. The genus Delabechea was included with Brachychiton by Ferdinand von Mueller in 1862 (first as Brachychiton delabechei) and the genus name bounced back and forth between Sterculia, Clompanus and Brachichiton since, with Brachychiton rupestris being the currently correct name. This current genus name comes from the Greek words 'brachy' meaning "short" and 'chiton' meaning a "tunic" in reference to the seed coating. It is commonly called the Queensland Bottle Tree in reference it natural habitat bottle-shaped trunk but is also called Narrowleaf Bottle Tree or Kurrajong. The largest known specimen is in the town of Roma in Queensland and measures over 30 feet in circumference. Large specimens of this tree have been moved within Australia and throughout the world, often with little or no roots attached and with considerable time between digging an replanting. San Marcos Growers first started growing this wonderful tree in 1990 and are happy to see that it is finally getting more recognition as it fits in well with the many other xerophytic plants. They are in the family Malvaceae.

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