Malvaceae (mallow family) Brachychiton

Brachychiton populneus kurrajong

Victoria, N.S.W., Queensland, Northern Territory
Kurrajong in the grove on Jane Stanford Way. A coast redwood is on the left. Sairus Patel, 2023
Brachychiton populneus leaf silhouette. From the book Trees of Stanford and Environs by Ronald Bracewell

A much appreciated tree in Australia, the kurrajong furnishes shade and shelter in dry areas, is lopped for fodder in time of drought, and is a source of honey. Clusters of pale bells give way in due course to surprisingly large woody follicles about 3 inches long, from which the seeds may be extracted. The seeds germinate readily, but in collecting them be careful of the short bristles, which are in high repute among small boys as itching powder; the name Brachychiton, which means short shirt, refers to this protective coating. In Scotland, where sark is the ordinary word for shirt, cutty sark means the same as brachychiton. The elegant form of this handsome tree often shows a green trunk.

An immense specimen is on Jane Stanford Way in the grove in front of the George Shultz Building; look for it northwest of the Abies bracteata. See two in the inner southwest island of the Inner Quad. The one closer to the church is B. populneus subsp. trilobus. The other one was described around 2005 as being more recently planted. Dozens have been planted in the northwest corner of the intersection of Campus Drive and Jane Stanford Way, and near the southeast corner of Manzanita Field.

Name derivation: Brachychiton – from Greek, brachys, short and chiton, a tunic, a reference to the coating on the seed; populneus – like a poplar, from the shape of the leaves.

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 added the Inner Quad locations. Removed mention of two at the north entrance to Wilbur Hall, and one at the Eating Clubs lawn east of Arguello Way; edits; add recent locations; all locations now up to date (Aug 2023, SP).