Bottle Tree Brachychiton
FAMILY: STERCULIACEAE (Sterculia Family)
Seen from a distance silhouetted against the sky, a stand of Australia's bottle trees resembles a weird assortment of flasks set down at crazy angles on the earth, as if a group of giants had left behind their beer bottles. These native Aussie trees have swollen trunks that can reach a girth of 30 feet (9 meters), which then taper upward gradually to the leafy crown. Why are they shaped that way? So they can store water in their pulpy tissue, a precious commodity in a dry habitat. The Aborigines are experts at using bottle trees as a water source, and they also eat the sweet, jelly-like pith and make an edible, floury paste from the tree's large fruits. And as if that weren't bounty enough, many of the bottle tree species produce a spectacular flourish of brightly colored flowers.