Sterculia quinquiloba

Botanical Name: Sterculia quinqueloba

Common Name: Ghost Tree, Mwemwe, Mukosa, Mgoza  

Plant Family: Malvaceae (Mallow Family) Sterculioideae

Growth Form, Habitat and Distribution: A large distinctly deciduous tree of low to medium altitude, rocky plateau escarpments, with a characteristically straight white trunk and straight-spreading branches from nodes. Sometimes occurring in termite mounds but in many woodland types, except in Luapula Province the Kalahari woodland biome in western Zambia.

Size: Height 18 to 20m, spread 10 to 15m.

Bark: Smooth, transitioning with age from greenish with a reddish coating to pale cream or pale purple and pealing in flakes. It produces a brown gum if damaged.

Leaves: Digitate, clustered at branch ends and 3 to 5-lobed appearing with the rains and falling gradually from May to July.

Flowers: On long stalks, unisexual, yellowish and foul smelling, usually appearing before June.

Fruit: Irritant, hairy, lobed follicles each holding several black seeds that are quickly attacked by Dysdercus beetles once they fall to the ground.

Uses: The wood is light and currently being widely logged and planked. The bark and leaves have magical and medicinal uses and the inner bark is used for nets and mats. The tree can be grown from seed or truncheon and makes a spectacular garden specimen tree, or can be used for avenues where the drying yellow-gold leaves are extravagant and the new green leaves equally attractive.