James H. Schutte
Plant Common Name
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The firewheel tree is among Australia's prettiest foliage and flowering native trees. The glossy, deeply lobed leaves make a beautiful backdrop to the fiery crimson flower clusters that look like pinwheels or undersea coral creatures. This slow-growing broadleaf evergreen tree is native to the eastern coastal rainforests of Queensland and New South Wales. It attains an upright oval habit with a smooth tan to sandy brown bark.
The leaves may be quite variable among trees. Always a glossy, deep olive-green, each leaf may be a entire oval or a deeply lobed leaf. Green flower buds emerge in late summer in a flattened cluster that mimics the look of a pinwheel. By early autumn, the buds blush yellow and finally red. Each "spoke" in the flower wheel has a swollen yellow tip where the floral organs are. There may be a off-putting floral fragrance at night in the effort to attract the moth pollinators. Afterward, the flowers develop into narrow, leather, boat-shaped fruits that shed numerous winged seeds. Although flowering is heaviest in the warmth of autumn, sporadic blooming may occur at other times of year, often arising directly from the trunk or branches.
Grow firewheel tree in a deep, fertile, acidic, moist but well-drained soil. Avoid applying fertilizers rich in phosphorous or containing high amounts of nitrates. It is moderately drought tolerant but responds well to irrigation in the heat of summer. When young this tree is very susceptible to subfreezing temperatures, but older plants survive with foliage dieback. It's slow to recover from winter cold damage. This species is also highly sensitive to herbicides. Firewheel tree grows well in full sun to bright dappled shade. Use it as a specimen shade and flowering tree in a yard or along a street. It rarely sheds litter, and is an exceptional tree near swimming pools or other public areas wear clean walkways or patios are needed. Be patient with young saplings, as it may take many years before flowers are finally produced.
AHS Heat Zone
12 - 9
USDA Hardiness Zone
10 - 13
H1, H2, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade
30'-75' / 9.1m - 22.9m (40)
15'-25' / 4.6m - 7.6m (20)
Early Fall, Fall