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My own 'Bush Tucker' tree - Sterculia quadrifida.


By bernieh


After adding some information about ‘bush tucker’ to some photos posted by Delonix, I realised I could post information about my very own ‘bush tucker’ tree that’s growing in my courtyard.

The definition of ‘bush tucker’ would be: edible, native Australian flora and fauna present before European colonisation which is harvested or hunted in the bush.

Now the tree in my courtyard is found in dry rainforests from the Richmond River in New South Wales to northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. The tree grows to a height of 5 -10 metres and has a spreading deciduous canopy. Here it is in my courtyard garden:

COMMON NAME: Peanut Tree
BOTANIC NAME: Sterculia quadrifida
FAMILY: Malvaceae / Sterculiaceae

This native tree is deciduous during winter and when flowering. Around Townsville (my area of north Queensland) they shed their leaves in about May (depending on the extent of the Wet season) and then regrow them after they’ve fruited, usually around August-September.

This means there’s a lot of mess lying around the courtyard for many months!!

The bark is a light grey and the leaves are dark green and broad egg-shaped or sometimes heart-shaped at the base. They are simple leaves, about 9 × 6 cm, alternate in whorls.

New growth appears after flowering or even later depending on how water stressed the tree is – especially during the drought years.

The flower is inconspicuous, creamy-white and lemon-scented. They are borne in small clusters in the upper axils, and occur from November to January (summer in Australia).

The distinctive feature is the fruit. The fruits are clusters of large, leathery, boat-shaped pods up to 8 cm long which, change from green to an eye-catching red at maturity.
Green pods:

Changing to red:

At this stage it splits open to reveal black seeds about the size of a peanut. The seeds are edible but the seed coat or testa should be removed first.
Popping open:


The edible seed is called ‘egng edndan’ in Uw Oykangand and Uw Olkola; ‘mayi pinta’ in Pakanh – traditional languages of the Aboriginal people in central Cape York Peninsula. Their colloquial name for this tree is ‘Monkeynut Tree’.

The pods stay open for quite some time – looking a bit like a flower and then they drop off. The remains of old fruits may be found on the ground for awhile – especially if I haven’t hosed off the courtyard that day or week!

According to some sources, alternative common names for this species include Kuman, Orange-fruited Kurrajong, Orange-fruited Sterculia, Red-fruited Kurrajong, Smooth-seeded Kurrajong, White Crowsfoot and Small-flowered Kurrajong.

The bark is used by Aboriginal people in their traditional weaving techniques to make baskets. The inner bark of this tree is also important to them as a source of string, used for rope, fishing nets and fishing line.

Anyway that’s the story of my own bush tucker tree!

More blog posts by bernieh

Previous post: Mid-Winter in Northern Oz: Colour in the garden.

Next post: A mid-winter gardening weekend over in northern Oz.



I love this blog :)

It gives a great insight into a wonderful new world of plants but also packed full of general information aswell as history.

11 Jul, 2009


Thanks Louise - when I found out about this tree I was glad to keep it (hubbie wanted to get rid of it because it does make a mess when it drops its leaves and pods). It does, however, provide lots of shade in summer in our courtyard and then lots of light in the winter when it is relatively leafless. It also attracts lots of birds - they love the seeds!

11 Jul, 2009


LOL, i understand hubbies views on the mess but i think that kind of tree 'makes' a garden and yes, the shade it provides HAS to be worth it too !

11 Jul, 2009


Interesting blog, Bernieh ~
Do the Aboriginal people use any part of the tree or fruits for dye colours ? I see you say the bark is used for weaving and rope...

11 Jul, 2009


TT - I know they use leaves and stem barks from some trees for dyes but I don't think that includes this one. The aboriginals up north on Cape York do use the root tubers from the 'cheesefruit' tree or 'dye' tree - Morinda citrifolia. Yes this particular tree's bark is apparently one of the best for making rope and string.

11 Jul, 2009


Yesterday on British TV, the programme from RHS Hampton Court Flower Show featured a show garden with plants which produce dyes from their roots, petals etc. Very interesting. Your tree's bark must be very strong and pliable.

11 Jul, 2009


That was very interesting Bernie.

11 Jul, 2009


I'll second that Bernie, Great blog with loads of info and fab photos. :~))

11 Jul, 2009


TT - it is interesting how plants can be used in so many ways isn't it? Sounds like the RHS show garden would be an interesting one to visit.

11 Jul, 2009


Thanks Hywel and Ian - something a little different.

11 Jul, 2009


A very interesting blog Bernieh

11 Jul, 2009


An interesting way of using a blog! Liked it a lot & found it quite informative. I wondered why you would like to keep such a messy tree in your patio & what you would use it for, but reading your comments I see you had answered them before I even thought of them! Lol!

11 Jul, 2009


Thanks Balcony - yes once I found out it the tree was not only a native of north Queensland but had a lot of history about its use with the indigenous Aboriginals, it just had to stay. Then of course, it's useful for shade during summer and being deciduous in winter lets lots of light into the courtyard as well. Benefits outweigh the downside.

11 Jul, 2009


Thats some tree Bernieh, So many interesting stages and all the history too and I like the colour of the bark, your pictures are great and all the information gives a real insight into the trees character.

25 Jul, 2009


I agree Pansypotter - it is a tree with real character and a history. I also love the fact that the largest concentration of these trees is in fact around my area of north Queensland.

26 Jul, 2009

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