Few trees in the tropics and subtropics are more typically Australian than members of the genus Brachychiton.
They are well recognised as being drought tolerant and are known to handle high rainfall provided they have excellent drainage.
With around 40 species, several of which are yet to be described scientifically, brachychitons are found naturally over most of eastern and northern Australia. In domestic gardens only 4 species are widely grown, namely B. acerifolius, B. discolor, B. populneus and B. rupestris; with the shrub-like B. bidwillii gaining more popularity in Queensland.
The first four are medium to large trees in high demand for large gardens and public parks, and are frequently exported to overseas tourist resorts.
For small suburban gardens, Brachychiton bidwillii and its various hybrids make ideal specimens with showy flowers and smaller dimensions. They may not be as stately or effective shade producing trees compared to other species (such as Brachychiton discolor) however they are worthwhile plants for the garden and landscape.
Brachychitons are known for their variable foliage and flower characteristics. For example, seedling grown flame trees (B. acerifolius) can flower with no foliage, full foliage, or somewhere in between, with flowers in small or large clusters. Most flower for several weeks. The size and colour of individual flowers varies between trees. Orangey shades are more common in trees from North Qld.
For more information and images of Brachychiton, plus many other flowering trees, go to subTropical Gardening magazine - www.stgmagazine.com.au