A Hawaii Artist discovers beauty and more in Island Sourced Materials!
Queensland Maple-Flindersia brayleyana
-4 Things you may not know about this Kauai plant
1. What is it? Queensland Maple is large evergreen tree and a member of the Citrus/Rue family. It isn't a true maple tree but has gotten this name due to its wood looking very similar to Curly Maple. The tree can reach about 70' with a diameter of 3'. The trunk is grey, brown and fairly smooth. The Queensland Maple's leaves are fairly large 12"-20" and each is made up of pinnate pairs of 8-12 5"-7" long leaflets. The large multi-stemmed panicles are made up of very small, cream-colored, fragrant flowers making them quite noticeable even from a distance. The flowers are followed by a uniquely shaped, reptilian textured seed pods. When I first discovered this tree, I likened the seed pod to a small gherkin pickle! The seed pods, eventually split open into 5 sections, each with creamy insides and filled with a1"-2" long, thin, flat seed surrounded by a thin wing. This plant grows best in rainforest conditions from about 100' to 3600' elevations. Flowering can last several months November through February with the pods releasing seeds generally in the summer. It can be used as a shade tree as well due to its large leaves. It's seedlings can grow well in shaded forests making it ideal for a forest setting and this might be concerning about it becoming invasive, but this hasn't become a problem anywhere.
2. Where did it come from? Not much of a surprise that the Queensland Maple is native to Queensland, Australia. It was introduced to Hawaii in 1935 as part of a forest plantation experiment. The first 500 trees were planted in the Ewa and Honlulu Forest reserves on Oahu and eventually were planted in the 1950's-1960's on Molokai, Hawaii, and more on Oahu. Waiakea Forest Reserve on Hawaii has about 400 acres of trees. The wood produced is a very good quality and quite decorative. An interesting fact of the timber use was in the production of World War II aircraft. It was used to manufacture propellers and for plywood in the Mosquito bomber aircraft. The timber was used in rifle stocks and today it is also used for cabinets, furniture, veneer, musical instruments and wood turning. It is currently grown in China, India, Malaysia, Thailand. In South America, is now grows in Paraguay and Peru. Also planted in Fiji and Samoa.
3. When is the best time for collecting?
We collect the seed pods for many months. They start to fall in the summer and continue to fall for the entire season. They store well in open-air containers indefinitely.
4. How are the collected plant parts used?
I can imagine the pods could be used in potpourri because of their unique texture but not sure I've ever seen them used this way. we use the pods as a decorative element on both baskets and pouches.
*Amy is a University of Hawaii Certified Master Gardener Emeritus, has a Bachelor of Science-Landscape Horticulture degree from Ohio State, has been a volunteer tour guide at NTBG, and is a self-proclaimed "plant nut"! She and her husband Ron have been making and selling their baskets for more than 20 years.