Panama-tree is native to southern Mexico, Central America, Brazil and western South America. In its native range it reaches a height of 130 feet, with a trunk 6 feet in diameter surrounded by prop roots. The leaves are large, with a long petiole and the blade subdivided in three to five lobes. Flowers are grouped in inflorescences that face downward. Fruits are globular pods up to 3.5 inches long that open to liberate several black seeds. It flowers during spring and occasionally during summer and fall. Pods open mostly during spring. The generic name derives from Sterculius, the Greek god of excrement, or rather of the process of fertilizing fields with excrement of domestic animals. The species name refers to the absence of petals (the apparent petals are the flower’s sepals).

The photographed tree is at the northeastern end of the old athletic field. There are other trees northeast of the Art Museum and Academic Senate Building and west of the Auxiliary Services Department.

Sterculia apetala (Sterculiaceae)