The generic name comes from the Greek brachys, meaning short and chiton, tunic, alluding to his imbricated scales and short hairs. The term populneum is a neuter adjective whose meaning refers to the poplar.
This plant is also known with the name of sterculia, a name derived from Sterculius, Roman god of the toilets; it is not surprising that the Romans divinized its network of pipes, the best in the ancient world, especially when you consider the importance of a proper disposal of wastewater for public health. We find a spectacular example of Roman sewer system near Seville, in Italica, hometown of Trajan and Hadrian. There are sewers there high enough for a person to be able to enter and clean them. So its maintenance was even more accessible than many of the current Sevilla sewers nowadays.
Esterculia, hence, relates to the Latin stercus, meaning dung, manure, name applied to this plant by the bad odor of leaves and fruits of some species. It is a tree from Australia, where it is used as a fodder plant. It wasn’t planted in Europe until the early nineteenth century for ornamental purposes.