Monday, March 22, 2010

Queensland Bottle Trees

I've been doing some research on bottle trees lately. Brachychiton rupestris is a native to Queensland (around Roma and inland from Rockhampton for example) and the northern parts of NSW. I've been fascinated with this tree since a lecturer at Burnley took a group of us students out to admire the young tree in the gardens. The tree was then about 12-15 years old if my memory serves me correctly and thought to be one of very few in Melbourne as it was believed they would not grow down here. Well this tree has stood the test of time and is still alive and doing so well it is even flowering and fruiting. It is now about 45 years old. Horticulturists have come to realise that this tree will cope with low temperatures and moderate frosts and thanks to our drying climate - it copes with less water too. There are now several notable bottle trees to be found around Melbourne; the most well known would have to be the 5 trees at the entrance to the Children's Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne (third photo). They have grown so well that they are cracking and raising the surrounding pavement! Bottle trees were included in two gardens at MIFGS in 2009 and these trees were grown initially at Teesdale (north of Geelong). Small trees are available in nurseries from about $10 and mature trees can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars (second photo is me with trees valued over $1000)! Luckily they don't mind being transplanted and thats because they are a type of succulent called a caudiciform. The trunk of the bottle tree develops its characteristic 'bottle' from the age of 5 to 8. This acts as a storage organ for the tree holding moisture in times of drought (first photo is a closeup of one of the bottle trees near the roundabout in Bacchus Marsh).
Just to avoid any confusion I will tell you that a bottle tree is not the same as a boab as a gentleman in the nursery was trying to tell me the other day. The boabs from the far north of Western Australia Adansonia gregorii are in the family Bombacaceae and are related to the baobabs of Africa. The bottle tree is in the family Sterculiaceae and like all the other brachychitons (kurrajong, flame tree etc) have evolved wholly in Australia.
This is a great specimen tree for your garden wherever you live - it also makes a great avenue. It appreciates good drainage, some fertiliser in spring and watering during the first few summers to get it going. Plant one for your grandchildren today!
Attila and Michelle Kapitany's garden has many bottle trees to gaze at and is open 10th, 11th and 12th of April at 1 The Lough Crt, Narre Warren North, Victoria for the AOGS. 10am to 4.30pm entry is $7. This is an amazing garden that will knock your socks off. As featured on Better Homes and Gardens and Gardening Australia (this Sat) and in 'Your Garden' current edition.

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