Resembling the Illawarra flame tree in general appearance, but having a distinctive bark when mature, lacebark is immediately distinguishable by the flowers, flower-buds, and pods. The bell-shaped, nectar-bearing flowers have about five pointed lobes and are about 1½ inches across, red inside and on the outside on the fringe, but mostly enclosed in a rusty down sheath that apparently consists of the fused sepals. The buds are enclosed in the same down and so is the pod, which is canoe shaped and 4 or 5 inches long. Some of the leaves are five-pointed with pale felt underneath and could easily be mistaken for leaves of Platanus racemosa (California plane tree), but others have three lobes or only one, and others again are very fancy with lobes upon the lobes.
There are two on and near the cycle path connecting Santa Fe Avenue to Stanford Avenue. Three young ones along the Campus Drive East side of the Student Services Center at 563 Salvatierra Walk were an inch in diameter in 2003; two of them were removed, dead, in 2005, and the last died the following year. One supposition is that the highly compacted soil resulting from building construction had not been properly prepared before tree planting.
A tree of very formal and distinguished appearance, drought resistant and less frost-sensitive than the flame tree, lacebark deserves a place in the Inner Quad.
Name derivation: Brachychiton – from Greek, brachys, short and chiton, a tunic, a reference to the coating on the seed; discolor – Latin, of two different colors.
About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. John Rawlings subsequently documented the tree removals. Minor edits, all locations verified Oct 2019 (SP).