Peanut Tree Peanut tree flowers and  pods Spacer.
Peanut Tree, pods (inset), flowers and ripe pod.

Peanut tree

Sterculia quadrifida

Origin:

Found in northern Australia, it is one of our indigenous bush foods.

Climate:

The tree is not frost resistant and prefers sub-tropical or Mediterranean conditions. Grows best in full sun.

Plant Description:

It is a very attractive fast-growing tree, 10-12m high, with soft wood and dense glossy dark green leaves. In sub-tropical regions it is briefly deciduous.

Relatives:

Malvaceae Family. Well-known members of this family include okra, cotton, hibiscus and cacao

Soils:

It does not tolerate waterlogging and best growth occurs in good draining mildly acid soils and sandy loams. As a bush food occurring in wild stands only, little is known about its fertiliser needs. However, it usually forms a very effective mycorrhizal association which allows it to grow well in many infertile sands and soils.

Propagation:

Seeds are used. These are relatively recalcitrant but if sown fresh will germinate quickly.

Cultivars:

There is considerable variation in behaviour between different trees with no recognised cultivars.

Flowering and Pollination:

Small creamy-yellow lemon-scented flowers form in racemes, sometimes before new leaf growth has commenced. Details have not been studied.

Cultivation:

It should be watered frequently when young. Mulch is important.

Wind Tolerance:

Not known.

Pruning:

Pruning mainly to contain tree size and shape.

The Fruit:

Fruit develop as dry dehiscent pods, 4-8cm long, and these turn an eye-catching orange as they ripen and open, revealing up to 8 edible peanut-sized black seeds.

Fruit Production and Harvesting:

Harvest is normally in late Spring Summer. Pods are best picked when fully coloured but before they dehisce and then require dispersed seeds to be gathered up from the ground.

Fruit Uses:

The black seedcoat is usually removed, revealing the creamy-white kernel. Can be eaten raw or roasted. Like chestnuts, roasting can then serve a dual function – to simplify seedcoat removal and bring out the flavour of the nut (kernel).

Pests and Diseases:

Leaf-eating insects can be a problem, but generally little is known.

Comments:

This tree could be chosen solely for its aesthetic value alone as it grows very well in the Mediterranean climate of the South West of WA. But in these conditions it can also produce fruit for a number of months of the year.