Growing along side the Red Cedar and also thriving in lowland rainforest habitat is the Illawarra Flame tree.
It too is deciduous but not with the same regularity as the Red Cedar.
The flame tree is adapted to the warm, moist rainforest environment but in dry years or after frosts, it may drop its leaves.
A few months after the jettisoning of the leaves, the tree fulfills the promise of its name, producing masses of bell-shaped vivid scarlet flowers.
Gardeners say these trees put on their best display maybe only once every five years, especially after a hot dry summer. In between these times, they may only produce one or two branches of flowers on the whole tree.
A member of the genus Brachychiton, it’s a showy cousin to the Kurrajong and Bottle trees.
As the name suggests, it grows in the wild from the Illawarra area of southern coastal New South Wales north into Queensland.
A great place to spot a flame tree is from one of the lookouts around the Springbrook area in south-east Queensland during summer. As you look across the valley, you can easily pick a brilliant red splotch from the deep green rainforest surrounding it.
These trees support and feed a wide range of native animals.
The branches offer a safe roosting place for canopy dwelling birds such as the White Headed Pigeon.
Flame tree leaves also feed the caterpillars of some native butterflies, including the Common Aeroplane, Tailed Emperor and Helenita Blue.
In turn, insectivorous birds feed off these caterpillars. Planting a few flame trees in your garden will provide habitat for these animals.
TIPOnce flowering has finished, the tree produces large black boat-shaped pods stuffed with hairy seeds. At first unappetising in appearance, they turn out to be quite tasty, but first remove the irritating hairs with gloves on before roasting the seeds.