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PlantFiles: Bonfire Tree
Firmiana colorata

Family: Malvaceae (mal-VAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Firmiana (fer-mee-AY-nuh) (Info)
Species: colorata (kol-oh-RAY-tuh) (Info)

Synonym:Erythropsis colorata
Synonym:Sterculia colorata

2 members have or want this plant for trade.

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30-40 ft. (9-12 m)
over 40 ft. (12 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings
From seed; germinate in vitro in gelatin, agar or other medium

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

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By barrystock
Thumbnail #1 of Firmiana colorata by barrystock

By cactus_lover
Thumbnail #2 of Firmiana colorata by cactus_lover

By cactus_lover
Thumbnail #3 of Firmiana colorata by cactus_lover


1 positive
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive barrystock On Jun 26, 2007, barrystock from Hollywood, FL wrote:

I grew a bunch of these from seed sent from India. In the pot they grow rather slowly, and I have lost some to rot during the winter. In the pot they are leafless for about six months, and are just awaking from dormancy now (late June). They seem to be much happier in the ground, as is evidenced by the size of the one in the photo, which was in the pot until three months ago, and was a twig. Plants the same age in pots are still twigs. I suspect they will also have a much shorter dormancy once planted out.

One interesting note that doesn't appear in any of the literature that I have found: the foliage gives off a pronounced odor of dung, very similar to that of its cousin Sterculia foetida. S. foetida gives off the odor through the flowers, while, for some reason, Firmiana colorata gives it off through the leaves. It is quite pronounced, and flies buzz around it in confusion, not knowing quite what to do. It is noticeable 10-12 feet away from the plant. The foliage of Sterculia urens (Gum Karaya) also gives off a pronounced odor, but not dung-like, more like a sharp peppery muskiness.

Plants sold as Gyrocarpus americanus often turn out to be Firmiana colorata. They are quite similar, although from different families. The growth rate, dormancy, and foliage are similar, although easy to distinguish once you've got them both going.

Neutral desertboot On May 1, 2004, desertboot from Bangalore
India (Zone 10a) wrote:

This is a small-medium deciduous, indigenous to India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka. Here in India, mostly a jungle species; a rarity in urban gardens. Seeds collected last weekend now under scrutiny.

Trunk and branches: straight, sometimes ridged; short branches forming a compact and well-balanced crown. What one would call a "dapper" tree, perhaps? Bark: ashy-brown; young shoots covered in grey pubescence.

Leaves are simple, palm-sized, almost heart-shaped, crowded at the ends of branches. An abundance of red-orange/crimson-brown flowers, each about an inch long, tubular, no petals, calyx with 5 triangular teeth. Flowers densely clustered at the ends of branches. Buds, flower-stalks, flowers covered in velvety down. Blooms (in South India, between February-March) when the tree is completely leafless; easy to mistake the inflorescence for new, orange-red leaves, which was what drew me to it in the first place. Overall effect: the common name says it all!

Fruit: a follicle, membranous, deceptively leaf-like but nothing like the tree's real leaves. These are between 3 inches-5 inches long, droopy, start off pale-green, gradually turn pale pink-red / pale orange-yellow (in South India, between April-May), gradually turn pale yellow-brown and brittle.

Seeds: usually just 1 or 2 seeds, borne along the edges of the open, leaf-like fruit. Seeds the size of a small bean, ovoid, yellow-green, shot with pink-orange where they fuse with the seed-case edge; slightly oily to the touch. They do not store well because of the oil. Propagate from stem cuttings or fresh seeds.

Never a dull moment with this tree.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Hollywood, Florida

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