The firewheel tree, or stenocarpus sinuatus, is a medium-sized flowering evergreen tree that comes from Australia and blooms during this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. The unique flowering cycle can last for months in fall on mature trees.
Their compound leaves are notable for being leathery and shiny with uniquely shaped leaves, almost like the aralia seiboldi plant when young.
The tree reaches about 25 feet by 15 feet in width here in Southern California and has very unusual orange and yellow flower arrangements that radiate off the branches on this colorful tree.
The tree is classified in the proteaceae family, and when the tree is mature, it can flower at different times of the year but primarily in fall. It is a cousin to the other flowering types of proteaceae plants, such as the king, queen, jester, pink mink and the pincushion types.
Firewheel trees enjoy full sunlight to dappled shade and can be a very interesting focal point in the landscape when staged just right. Its striking foliage, which is deeply lobed, can vary greatly in size and assorted shapes and is sometimes used in exotic types of floral arrangements. I have even used this shiny green leaf as a name card written on with a silver calligraphy pen at dinner table settings.
The flowers are shaped like a pin-wheel, similar to the spokes of a wagon wheel, and have been adopted as a symbol by the Rotary International around the world. There is a marvelous flowering specimen at the Rotary Park in Carlsbad across from the old train station.
It is tolerable to 25-30 degrees cold and drier Mediterranean climates and enjoys well-drained soils and minimal water once it is established, which can take two to three years after the tree is planted. Don’t forget to mulch newly planted trees to conserve moisture about their root systems, which aids in their establishment. It takes several years to bloom, but I think it is well worth the wait, considering my life-long connection with trees of all types from around the world.
The tree’s name, stenocarpus sinuatus, comes from the Greek word “stenos” meaning “narrow” and “carpus” meaning “fruiting body,” in reference to the shape of the seed capsules which are flattened and thin.
People often ask about me about planting trees with beautiful fall tree foliage color like they have back East? Well, it’s not only in fall foliage in my opinion, but this tree is a real winner in my arboricultural portfolio in filling that request for its colorful fall flowers on this handsome tree.
The Tree Man of Fallbrook, Roger Boddaert, can be reached at (760) 728-4297.