Evergreen fast-growing shrub mostly 3-4 m or more tall with many soft-wooded stems. Leaves long-stalked, soft-hairy, simple or shallowly lobed, ovate, cordate at the base, to about 15 cm long, palmately veined from the base, tip pointed. Flowers in terminal clusters, showy, white. Sepals 4. Petals 4, about 2 cm long. Inner stamens purplish, outer stamens sterile, purple at the tip (the stamens are sensitive and will spring apart when triggered, depositing pollen on a visiting insect); spring to summer. Fruit round, bristly, about 2 cm wide including the bristles.
Cape of S Africa
Grows naturally on rocky hillsides and in abundance at the margins of evergreen forests. The leaf hairs have been known to cause skin irritation and rashes.
The bark has been used as a source of fibre.
S. ricinocarpa (Eckl. & Zeyh.) Kuntze grows naturally from Ethiopia to S Africa; it is a much smaller plant that has leaves with 3, 5 or 7 deep, narrow, pointed lobes and pink to white flowers about 1 cm long. [S. palmata E. Mey.]
Source: (1997). Tiliaceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 2. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 1. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.