Sterculia is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae: subfamily Sterculioideae (previously placed in the now obsolete Sterculiaceae). Members of the genus are colloquially known as tropical chestnuts. The scientific name is taken from Sterculius of Roman mythology, who was the god of manure; this is in reference to the unpleasant aroma of the flowers of this genus (e.g. Sterculia foetida). Sterculia may be monoecious or dioecious, and flowers unisexual or bisexual.
Sterculia species are food plants for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the leaf miner Bucculatrix xenaula, which feeds exclusively on this genus. Gum karaya is extracted from Sterculia species, and is used as a thickener and emulsifier in foods, as a laxative, and as a denture adhesive. In India, this is sourced from: Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madras, Madhya Pradesh and Chhota Nagpur.
The Plant List counts 91 currently accepted species. The accepted species are listed here, except as noted.
A 27 million years old †Sterculia labrusca leaf fossil is described from the Evros region in Western Thrace, Greece.