The Hazel Sterculia is a large deciduous tree that can reach heights of up to 40 m. Its natural distribution includes East Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and North Australia. It grows on coastal areas and in semi-open forests, and has a straight bole with a smooth grey to whitish outer bark and fibrous inner bark.
This Hazel Sterculia originally stood in the former Economic Garden but was transplanted to its current location before 1920. This was done in preparation for the Economic Garden’s land to be reallocated for the development of Raffles College. The tree is more than 100 years old and had a girth of 5.4 m when endorsed as a Heritage Tree in 2019.
The Hazel Sterculia is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on separate trees. Its flowers lack petals, although they have a red, five-lobed calyx that resembles a set of petals. They give off an unpleasant smell, and the tree’s scientific name hints at this – the genus Sterculia was named for the Roman god of manure, Sterculius or Sterquilinus, and its species epithet, foetida, means ‘foul-smelling’. Its fruit is bright red and has one to five boat-like sections that house 10 to 12 black seeds in total.