The Lowveld Chestnut, Sterculia murex, grows up to 6-12m with wide, with spreading branches and 1-2m stems up to 30cm in diameter. The stem is covered with thick, ribbed, gray-brown bark. In old wood, the bark becomes almost black and is cracked into rectangular segments.
The five-lobed fruits are unique in appearance. They are large (up to 30cm in diameter if all lobes develop), woody and covered thickly with hard spines. The shell contains large oval seeds, resting in a bed of stinging hairs that can be irritating on contact with the skin or eyes. It is seldom that a very big complete fruit is collected as they grow high on the tree and shatter as they fall.
The open fruit shell makes an unusual ash-tray, and is not easily charred by lighted cigarettes. The sweet, oily seeds are relished by baboons and monkeys, and after roasting, are enjoyed by humans too. The tree is mainly grown for decorative effect as the wood is soft and of little use.
The genus Sterculia was named after the Latin god Sterculius. The specific epithet "murex" is also Latin meaning, "having rough parts" or "prickly" in reference to the spiky fruits. Despite its common name this tree is not related to the true chestnuts.
By the way there are none of these TREEs in the area...........