Queensland Bottle Trees (Brachychiton rupestris) make superb shade trees in your landscape. Their distinctive trunk shape, pale bark, and wide branching tops go beautifully with park or pasture areas. They also work well when widely spaced to shade lanes and roadways. A Queensland bottle tree could even be used as a feature tree in a large lawn or yard space, providing few other tree-type growths were included.
Selecting Your Queensland Bottle Tree
As with many other landscaping feature trees, the best place to obtain your tree is from a licensed nursery. There are a variety of reasons for this, including obtaining a tree that is free from bugs or infectious diseases that could spread to other trees. In addition, your nursery salesperson should be able to give you good growing directions for your bottle tree. More than that, a licensed nursery will sell trees that are legally grown or harvested for sale to the general public. As we all grow more aware of just how fragile our natural world can be, this is an important consideration.
You will want a tree that is still young enough and small enough to be easily transported to your location. That is, unless you are receiving a mature tree that somehow has managed to be growing in an area where new construction or landscaping changes are planned. The latter is quite an undertaking, involving large trucks and digging equipment. Bottle trees put down deep roots.
Look for a tree that has healthy, unbroken bark. The twigs at the top of the tree should be flexible. Your young tree might not immediately have the graceful bottle shape, since that usually develops with age.
Growing Bottle Trees from Seed or Cuttings
If you are fortunate enough to know someone who has a Queensland bottle tree, you can grow a young tree from seed or from live cuttings. The seeds have a thorny protective covering. It is recommended that you wear gloves when opening the pods to extract the seeds. Once extracted from the pod, the seeds can be placed in shallow trays and lightly covered with earth. Keep moist and watch for the first leaflets to appear.
Once the seed has sprouted, it can be transferred to a large pot and allowed to grow until it is large enough to place in a permanent outdoor setting.
Bottle trees do not need pruning, but are amenable to the process. It might be necessary where height or growth direction of limbs needs to be controlled. Twigs from pruning can be dipped in a rooting medium and placed in a container of water until they develop rootlets. At that time, they can be moved into a container of potting soil.
Placing your Queensland Bottle Tree Out-of-Doors
Plan plenty of room for your bottle tree. While most nursery specimens are quite a bit smaller at the outset, they can soar to a majestic eighteen to twenty meters in height. Their roots will plunge deep into the ground, and extend out toward the drip line of the canopy. This is an amazing tree that is perfect for sheltering your backyard hammock or creating shade for a picnic table.
With that said, it is a good idea to keep the barbeque grill or brazier a good distance away from your trees. By the same token, large trees should be placed away from your home or other structures. This helps to prevent damage caused by falling tree limbs or moisture-greedy roots.
Growing Bottle Trees in Containers
Queensland bottle trees are slow growing trees. It is possible to grow them in containers. Although they will tolerate a wide range of temperatures and soil types, there are times when you just don’t want to put your tree into the ground. In spite of their potential for majestic size, it is even possible to make a bonsai from a small bottle tree sapling.
Protect Your Bottle Tree
Bottle trees were once used as moisture reservoirs. The inner pulp is edible, and is considered to be a high energy food, although it has little protein. Because so much of a bottle tree has survival potential, you might need to fence your tree to prevent its being vandalized by humans or animals who wish to munch on it.
Featuring your Queensland Bottle Tree
Whether you purchase one of these unique trees as a feature tree for your garden, or you intend it as a container plant, you are sure to achieve years of lasting enjoyment from your bottle tree. They are hardy, requiring little or no maintenance when planted outside.