Habitat: Tropical and warm-temperate regions of Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas.
Cultivation: Full exposure to sunlight. Temperatures never below 6-10ºC. Careful with watering
Curiosity: Their name doesn’t honor them: “Sterculia” in fact comes from Sterculius, the god of dung, according to the mythology of the ancient Romans: this is because of the unpleasant smell of the fruits of some species, including S. foetida.
Sterculia is a genus of plants native to the tropical and warm-temperate regions of Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas.
Their name doesn’t honor them: “Sterculia” in fact comes from Sterculius, the god of dung, according to the mythology of the ancient Romans: this is because of the unpleasant smell of the fruits of some species, including S. foetida.
Actually the Sterculias, besides being very fascinating and variously colored plants, are also useful! Indians, for example, extract from some species (S. urens and S. scaphigera) a certain type of vegetable gum, the so-called Karaya gum. This gum is extracted by cutting the bark of these plants and used as thickener and emulsifier in food preparation, as well as laxative and food additive (E46). From the trunk of some species (S. rogersii) are obtained fibers for ropes.
Sterculias are deciduous trees, with rather large, simple or compound leaves (compound means “organized in groups of small leaves having the main petiole in common”), bright green, usually oval or elliptical.
The flowers can have very different shapes and colors, so it is difficult to give a general description. Usually, however, they have 5 petals fused together at the base, usually red or yellow. They are very showy and gather in inflorescences.
Their fruits are also very showy: in botanical nomenclature, they are called capsules, but practically they look like strange red chestnuts that release, opening, oval, hard, black seeds. It is precisely because of these fruits that the common English name of Sterculia is “Tropical chestnut”. These fruits, when opened, create beautiful geometric structures: the most striking case is that of S. Nobilis, whose fruits, when opened, create a beautiful star or “flower of life” shape.
VARIETY AND TYPES
Sterculia are very rare plants. Anyway, the best-known species of Sterculia is Sterculia africana. Check our online store for more ones!
TIPS FOR GROWING
To successfully grow your Sterculia just follow some advices:
- Sterculias grow well in the sun.
- Do not water them too much, especially in winter, and protect them from temperatures lower than 5-10 ºC.
- It is better to keep them always above 13ºC.
- Sterculias grow slowly: you don’t have to repot them very often.
The propagation of Sterculia is usually from seed. You have to be patient: seeds take at least one month to germinate and during this period the substrate should be kept humid.