S. foetida
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Subfamily: Sterculioideae
Genus: Sterculia
L., 1753[1]

See text

  • Ivira Aubl.
  • Mateatia Vell.
  • Triphaca Lour.
  • Xylosterculia Kosterm.[1]
Ripe fruit capsules releasing their smooth seeds, Malaysia
Ripe fruit capsules releasing their smooth seeds, Malaysia
S. setigera, dry capsules and seeds – MHNT
S. setigera, dry capsules and seeds – MHNT
S. pruriens, wood texture – MHNT
S. pruriens, wood texture – MHNT

Sterculia[2] is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae: subfamily Sterculioideae (previously placed in the now obsolete Sterculiaceae[1]). Members of the genus are colloquially known as tropical chestnuts. Sterculia may be monoecious or dioecious, and its flowers unisexual or bisexual.



A 27-million-year-old †Sterculia labrusca leaf fossil is described from the Evros region in Western Thrace, Greece.[3]


The Plant List counts 91 currently accepted species. The accepted species are listed here, except as noted.[4]

Panama tree, S. apetala
Panama tree, S. apetala


  • Cola nitida (Vent.) Schott & Endl. (as S. nitida Vent.)
  • Firmiana fulgens (Wall. ex Mast.) Corner (as S. fulgens Wall. ex Mast. or S. pallens Wall. ex King)
  • Firmiana simplex (L.) W.Wight (as S. platanifolia L.f., S. simplex L., and S. urens Roxb.[6])
  • Hildegardia barteri (Mast.) Kosterm. (as S. barteri Mast.)
  • Hildegardia cubensis (Urb.) Kosterm. (as S. cubensis Urb.)
  • Knema glomerata (Blanco) Merr. (as S. glomerata Blanco)
  • Pterygota alata (Roxb.) R.Br. (as S. alata Roxb.)
  • Scaphium affine (Mast.) Pierre (as S. lychnophora Hance) – Malva nut, Marg Jong
  • Scaphium scaphigerum (Wall. ex G.Don) Guibourt & G.Planch. (as S. scaphigera Wall. ex G.Don)[7]


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 species are food plants for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the leaf miner Bucculatrix xenaula, which feeds exclusively on this genus.

Toxicity and uses

The pods, particularly those of S. foetida, contain seeds reported to be edible, with a taste similar to cocoa.[8] However, the oil contains cyclopropene fatty acids which could be carcinogenic or co-carcinogenic.[9]

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.


  1. ^ a b c "Genus: Sterculia L." Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2003-06-05. Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  2. ^ Linnaeus C (1753) In: Species Plantarum 2: 1007.
  3. ^ Review of the Cenozoic floras and vegetation of Greece by Dimitrios Velitzelos, Johannes M. Bouchal and Thomas Denk - Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, Volume 204, May 2014, Pages 56-117
  4. ^ "Sterculia". The Plant List, accessed 30 June 2018
  5. ^ "Species Information". Archived from the original on 2007-03-13.
  6. ^ "Firmiana simplex". The Plant List, accessed 30 June 2018.
  7. ^ "GRIN Species Records of Sterculia". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  8. ^ The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants. United States Department of the Army. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. 2009. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-60239-692-0. OCLC 277203364.((cite book)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. ^ L. O. Hanus, P. Goldshlag, V. M. Dembitsky (2008). "Identification Of Cyclopropyl Fatty Acids In Walnut (Juglans Regia L.) Oil." Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub. 2008, 152(1):41–45.