Sterculia quinquiloba

Family: Sterculiaceae

This species is called the Egyptian plane tree due to the close resemblance of its bark, crown and leaves to the plane tree that is widely planted in temperate countries. The Swahili name is mlipadeni, and it is also known locally as mwembeti.

It is a medium-sized, single-stemmed tree of tall miombo woodland.  The attractive, smooth papery that peels off to reveal young green bark that changes colour to pink and white then grey as it ages. Slashing the bark reveals the pinkish red fresh wood underneath. The leaves are very large, often over 30cm long with between 3 and 5 lobes, with a leaf stalk (petiole) that is about as long as the leaf. Their underside is covered with soft, pale hairs. In the dry season all the leaves are shed. The flowers are yellow and tiny. They appear in large clusters at the same time as the new leaves. As is characteristic of this genus, the tree bears large woody fruit, which in this species are covered in yellow hairs and break open into five sections. The seeds are dark and are attached around the edges of the sections.

The orange-brown timber is light and the long straight planks this tree typically provides are usually used as rafters. It is an important source of the bark rope in villages used to tie poles together in building construction and to seal sacks.