Sterculia[2] is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae: subfamily Sterculioideae (previously placed in the now obsolete Sterculiaceae[1]). Members of the genus are colloquially known as tropical chestnuts. Sterculia may be monoecious or dioecious, and its flowers unisexual or bisexual.

S. foetida
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Subfamily: Sterculioideae
Genus: Sterculia
L., 1753[1]

See text

  • Ivira Aubl.
  • Mateatia Vell.
  • Triphaca Lour.
  • Xylosterculia Kosterm.[1]
Ripe fruit capsules releasing their smooth seeds, Malaysia
S. setigera, dry capsules and seeds – MHNT
S. pruriens, wood texture – MHNT



A 27-million-year-old †Sterculia labrusca leaf fossil is described from the Evros region in Western Thrace, Greece.[3]


The Plant List counts 91 currently accepted species. The accepted species are listed here, except as noted.[4]

  • Sterculia abbreviata E.L.Taylor ex Mondragón
  • Sterculia aerisperma Cuatrec.
  • Sterculia africana (Lour.) Fiori Mopopaja tree
  • Sterculia albidiflora Ducke
  • Sterculia alexandri Harv. Cape sterculia
  • Sterculia amazonica E.L.Taylor ex Mondragón
  • Sterculia antioquia E.L.Taylor
  • Sterculia apeibophylla Ducke
  • Sterculia alexandri (Jacq.) H.Karst.
  • Sterculia apetala (Jacq.) H.Karst. Panama tree; manduvi tree
  • Sterculia appendiculata K.Schum.
  • Sterculia balanghas L. or Aiton (status unresolved)
  • Sterculia brevissima H.H. Hsue
  • Sterculia caribaea R. Br.
  • Sterculia ceramica R. Br.
  • Sterculia chapelieri Baill.
  • Sterculia chicomendesii E.L. Taylor
  • Sterculia cinerea Schweinf. or A.Rich. (status unresolved)
  • Sterculia cinnamomifolia Tsai & Mao
  • Sterculia cochinchinensis Pierre Trôm nam in Vietnam (status unresolved)
  • Sterculia colombiana Sprague
  • Sterculia colorata Scarlet sterculia (synonym of Firmiana colorata)
  • Sterculia comorensis Sprague
  • Sterculia corrugata Little
  • Sterculia costaricana Pittier
  • Sterculia curiosa (Vell.) Taroda
  • Sterculia dawei Sprague
  • Sterculia duckei E.L. Taylor ex J.A.C. Silva & M.F. Silva
  • Sterculia euosma W.W. Sm.
  • Sterculia excelsa Mart.
  • Sterculia foetida L. bastard poon tree, hazel sterculia, wild almond tree[5]
  • Sterculia frondosa Rich.
  • Sterculia gengmaensis H.H. Hsue
  • Sterculia gilva Miq.
  • Sterculia guangxiensis S.J. Xu & P.T. Li
  • Sterculia guapayensis Cuatrec.
  • Sterculia guianensis Sandwith
  • Sterculia guttata Roxb. ex G.Don (status unresolved)
  • Sterculia hainanensis Merr. and Chun
  • Sterculia henryi Hemsl.
  • Sterculia hymenocalyx K. Schum.
  • Sterculia hypochroa Pierre Trôm quạt in Vietnam (status unresolved)
  • Sterculia impressinervis H.H. Hsue
  • Sterculia kayae P.E. Berry
  • Sterculia khasiana Debb.
  • Sterculia killipiana Standl. ex E.L.Taylor
  • Sterculia kingtungensis H.H. Hsue
  • Sterculia lanceifolia Roxb.
  • Sterculia lanceolata Cav. (synonym for S. tonkinensis Aug. DC.)
  • Sterculia lisae E.L. Taylor
  • Sterculia macerenica E.L. Taylor
  • Sterculia mexicana R.Br.
  • Sterculia mhoysa Engl.
  • Sterculia micrantha Chun and H.H. Hsue
  • Sterculia mirabilis (A. Chev.) Roberty
  • Sterculia monosperma Vent. China chestnut, seven sisters' fruit, pheng phok
  • Sterculia multiovula E.L. Taylor
  • Sterculia murex Hemsl. Lowveld chestnut
  • Sterculia narioensis E.L. Taylor
  • Sterculia oblonga Mast.
  • Sterculia ornatisepala E.L. Taylor
  • Sterculia paniculata
  • Sterculia parviflora Roxb.
  • Sterculia pendula Ducke
  • Sterculia peruviana (D.R. Simpson) E.L. Taylor ex Brako and Zarucchi
  • Sterculia petensis E.L. Taylor
  • Sterculia pexa Pierre
  • Sterculia pinbienensis Tsai & Mao
  • Sterculia principis Gagnep.
  • Sterculia pruriens (Aubl.) K.Schum.
  • Sterculia purpurea E.L. Taylor
  • Sterculia quadrifida Gorarbar (status unresolved)
  • Sterculia quinqueloba (Garcke) K.Schum. Five-lobed sterculia
  • Sterculia rebeccae E.L. Taylor
  • Sterculia recordiana Standl.
  • Sterculia rhinopetala K.Schum. Red sterculia
  • Sterculia rigidifolia Ducke
  • Sterculia rogersii N.E. Br. Ulumbu tree
  • Sterculia rugosa R.Br.
  • Sterculia rubiginosa Vent Bai rua long in Vietnam
  • Sterculia scandens Hemsl.
  • Sterculia schliebenii Mildbr.
  • Sterculia setigera Delile
  • Sterculia simaoensis Y.Y. Qian
  • Sterculia speciosa K.Schum.
  • Sterculia steyermarkii E.L. Taylor ex Mondragón
  • Sterculia stigmarota Pierre (status unresolved)
  • Sterculia stipulifera Ducke
  • Sterculia striata A. St.-Hil. & Naudin
  • Sterculia subnobilis H.H. Hsue
  • Sterculia subracemosa Chun & H.H. Hsue
  • Sterculia subviolacea K.Schum.
  • Sterculia tavia Baill.
  • Sterculia tessmannii Mildbr.
  • Sterculia tonkinensis Aug. DC.
  • Sterculia tantraensis
  • Sterculia tragacantha Lindl.
  • Sterculia urens Gulu (synonym of Firmiana simplex)
    • S. urens var. thorelii is a synonym of S. thorelii Pierre (Bay thua Thorel in Vietnam)
  • Sterculia venezuelensis Pittier
  • Sterculia villifera Steud. Broad-leaved bottle tree
  • Sterculia villosa Roxb.
  • Sterculia xolocotzii T. Wendt & E.L. Taylor
  • Sterculia yuanjiangensis H.H. Hsue & X.J.Xu
Panama tree, S. apetala


  • Brachychiton acerifolius (A. Cunn. ex G.Don) Macarthur (as S. acerifolia A.Cunn. ex G.Don)
  • Brachychiton australis (Schott & Endl.) A.Terracc. (as S. trichosiphon Benth.)
  • Brachychiton discolor F. Muell. (as S. lurida (C.Moore ex F.Muell.) F.Muell. ex Benth.)
  • Brachychiton garrawayae (F.M.Bailey) Guymer (as S. garrawayae F.M.Bailey)
  • Brachychiton paradoxus Schott & Endl. (as S. ramiflora (R.Br.) Benth.)
  • Brachychiton populneus (Schott & Endl.) R.Br. (as S. diversifolia G.Don)
  • Cola acuminata (P.Beauv.) Schott & Endl. (as S. acuminata P.Beauv.)
  • Cola heterophylla (P.Beauv.) Schott & Endl. (as S. heterophylla P.Beauv.)
  • Cola nitida (Vent.) Schott & Endl. (as S. nitida Vent.)
  • Firmiana fulgens (Wall. ex Mast.) Corner (as S. fulgens Wall. ex Mast. or S. pallens Wall. ex King)
  • Firmiana simplex (L.) W.Wight (as S. platanifolia L.f., S. simplex L., and S. urens Roxb.[6])
  • Hildegardia barteri (Mast.) Kosterm. (as S. barteri Mast.)
  • Hildegardia cubensis (Urb.) Kosterm. (as S. cubensis Urb.)
  • Knema glomerata (Blanco) Merr. (as S. glomerata Blanco)
  • Pterygota alata (Roxb.) R.Br. (as S. alata Roxb.)
  • Scaphium affine (Mast.) Pierre (as S. lychnophora Hance) Malva nut, Marg Jong
  • Scaphium scaphigerum (Wall. ex G.Don) Guibourt & G.Planch. (as S. scaphigera Wall. ex G.Don)[7]


The scientific name is taken from Sterculius of Roman mythology, who was the god of manure; this is in reference to the unpleasant aroma of the flowers of this genus (e.g. Sterculia foetida).


Sterculia species are food plants for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the leaf miner Bucculatrix xenaula, which feeds exclusively on this genus.

Toxicity and uses

The pods, particularly those of S. foetida, contain seeds reported to be edible, with a taste similar to cocoa.[8] However, the oil contains cyclopropene fatty acids which could be carcinogenic or co-carcinogenic.[9]

Gum karaya is extracted from Sterculia species, and is used as a thickener and emulsifier in foods, as a laxative, and as a denture adhesive. In India, this is sourced from: Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madras, Madhya Pradesh and Chhota Nagpur.


  1. "Genus: Sterculia L." Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2003-06-05. Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  2. Linnaeus C (1753) In: Species Plantarum 2: 1007.
  3. Review of the Cenozoic floras and vegetation of Greece by Dimitrios Velitzelos, Johannes M. Bouchal and Thomas Denk - Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, Volume 204, May 2014, Pages 56-117
  4. "Sterculia". The Plant List, accessed 30 June 2018
  5. "Species Information". Archived from the original on 2007-03-13.
  6. "Firmiana simplex". The Plant List, accessed 30 June 2018.
  7. "GRIN Species Records of Sterculia". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  8. The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants. United States Department of the Army. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. 2009. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-60239-692-0. OCLC 277203364.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. L. O. Hanus, P. Goldshlag, V. M. Dembitsky (2008). "Identification Of Cyclopropyl Fatty Acids In Walnut (Juglans Regia L.) Oil." Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub. 2008, 152(1):41–45.
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