AMONGST the giant London Plane Trees that dominate the King George V Gardens in Wangaratta, the observant plant enthusiast will spot some rare and fascinating Australian rainforest trees.
Two of interest are a large, Castanospermum australe [Black Bean] growing adjacent to Rowan Street, and a slender tree of exceptional beauty - the Firewheel Tree [Stenocarpus sinuatus].
This grows alongside a transecting path leading from the children’s playground to Ovens Street. Look up! From February to May, you will be delighted with large, orange-red wagon wheels glowing in profusion among lobed glossy deep green leaves. Firewheel trees are native to NSW and Queensland. They grow well in our district, are great bird-attractors and make a lovely garden specimen.
Although they may reach 30 metres in their native habitat, in cultivation they are slow-growing, and may attain five metres in about 12 – 15 years.
They are a popular street tree in Australia, and are planted extensively in USA and parts of Europe.
A Firewheel Tree would be a delightful feature or shade tree in your garden.
Established plants are available from local nurseries. Choose a position in full sun or part shade. More rapid establishment can be aided by mulching with well-rotted compost and the addition of a low-phosphorus fertilizer.
Keep well-watered during dry times, but, once established, they will tolerate dry periods.
They can be lightly pruned to encourage a pleasing shape. Protect from severe frost until established. Seed-grown plants will flower in about 6–7 years. Like many rainforest trees, flowers may emerge from the trunk and bare stems as well as from previous year’s growth.
The 14-spoke wagon-wheel flowers appear from February, lasting until late May.
Clusters of seed capsules which follow the flowering period are large, solid and boat-shaped. They hold a profusion of papery seeds. Our garden specimens are 14 years old and are about four metres high.
We propagated our specimens from locally collected seed.
DISTINCTIVE: The blooms of the firewheel tree.