Sterculia pruriens is a tree with a heavy, rounded crown, commonly growing 30 metres or more tall. The straight, cylindrical bole is unbuttressed; it has a low taper, can be unbranched for up to 20 metres and 60cm or more in diameter[
The tree is harvested from the wild for local medicinal use and for its timber, which is used locally and also traded.
S. America - Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, the Guyanas; Caribbean - Trinidad and Tobago.
Dense primary rainforest[
]. Rain, marsh and creek forests, forested slopes and savannah forests[
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The plant is not fussy as to soil conditions, succeeding in most sites, including where the drainage is poor, and thriving in poor sandy soils[
Although we have seen no specific information for this species, the large seeds of many species in this genus are used for food. Usually cooked, they are rich in oil and have a flavour described by some as like peanuts[
An oil extracted from the seeds is said to have several medicinal uses, especially for treating skin diseases such as mange[
The wood is mixed with tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) and administered as a soothing remedy for colds[
The leaf-ash is mixed with fat or oil and used as a hair ointment when the scalp has infected sores or pimples[
Several species of Sterculia contain caffeine in the leaf and seed[
The fibrous bark is used for tying purposes and for carrying cargoes suspended from the head band. For such purposes it is strong, but is wet and sticky, and therefore not considered as good as some other species, such as several members of the Annonaceae[
The heartwood is whitish or greyish with numerous brown ray flecks imparting an overall brownish effect; it is not clearly demarcated from the 5cm wide band of sapwood, which is subject to discolouration by sap-staining fungi. The grain is usually straight; the texture medium to coarse; the wood is not especially fibrous as compared to some other members of the genus and is fairly lustrous. The wood is light to moderately heavy; soft; not durable when in contact with the ground. It seasons at a normal rate but with a high risk of checking and distortion; once dry it is poorly stable in service. It works easily with both hand and machine tools and does not blunt cutting edges readily; although the finish tends to be somewhat fibrous, good results are usually obtained with reasonably sharp cutting edges; compared to baromalli (Catostemma commune), this wood is slightly easier to cut and finishes to a less fibrous surface; nails are held firmly and cause no splitting; a good finish can be obtained with stains and polishes if a fair amount of rain filler is used. In general, this is not a timber of great strength and should not be used where exceptional strength is required. A lightweight hardwood of plain appearance., it is a wood of fairly good quality, somewhat lighter in colour, heavier, harder, finer textured and of better quality than the widespread Sterculia apetala of other regions in the American tropics. It is most suitable for light construction work, interior joinery, concrete forms, boxes and crates, and inside or otherwise protected wall boarding. Cheap coffins are sometimes made from the wood. The tree is suitable for papermaking, it has a very good yield of pulp and produces a very good grade of paper[
A physical dormancy caused by the hard seed coat of the mature seeds of many species in this genus can be overcome by scarifying the seed. This is carried out by cutting away or abrading some of the seed coat to allow the ingress of water, though great care must be taken not to damage the embryo[
]. The aril surrounding the seed should also be removed - this is easiest when it has been softened through soaking in water[
]. The seeds germinate optimally at temperatures between 20 - 30°c. They can be sown in a nursery seedbed or in containers. A germination rate of about 95%, occurring within about 2 weeks can be expected if the seed has been properly treated[
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