Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Polyscias elegans (C.Moore & F.Muell.) Harms

Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
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Flower. © Barry Jago
Flowers and immature fruits. © CSIRO
Fruit, side view and cross section. © W. T. Cooper
Leaves and fruits. © CSIRO
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO

Harms, H.A.T. in Engler, H.G.A. & Prantl, K.A.E. (1894) Die Naturlichen Pflanzenfamilien 3(8): 45.

Common name

Silver Basswood; Black Pencil Cedar; Cedar, Black Pencil; Celerywood; Mowbulan Whitewood


Blaze odour resembles celery. Wood white, very soft and light. Brownish fibrous stripes visible in the blaze.


Crushed leaves and twigs smell like celery (Apium graveolens). Transverse sections of the compound leaf rhachis show that it is mainly pith which contains large pores visible to the naked eye. Leaflet blades about 3.5-14 x 2-6 cm. Midrib raised on the upper surface of the leaflet blade.


Flowers in racemes which are arranged in panicles. Calyx tube without lobes. Petals about 3 mm long. Style arms free and divergent following anthesis.


Fruits depressed globular, conspicuously laterally compressed, about 5-6 x 5-6 x 3-3.5 mm. Style arms divergent persisting at the apex of the fruit. Embryo very small.


Cotyledons elliptic to almost orbicular, about 8-10 mm long. First leaf produced usually simple, then 4-8 trifoliolate leaves before pinnate leaves are produced. At the tenth leaf stage: leaflets +/- elliptic, apex acuminate, glabrous; terminal bud densely clothed in pale stellate hairs or scales. Seed germination time 83 to 226 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Widespread in CYP, NEQ, CEQ and southwards to coastal central New South Wales. Altitudinal range from near sea level to 1000 m. A characteristic tree of disturbed rain forest in the higher rainfall areas but also grows as a canopy tree in monsoon forest and drier rain forest. Also occurs in New Guinea.

Natural History & Notes

Fruit eaten by several species of birds. Cooper & Cooper (1994).

Generally regarded as a rather inferior species for the production of timber. However, this species regenerates prolifically after a disturbance and each year produces large crops of fruit.

Nothopanax elegans (C.Moore) Seem., Flora Vitiensis : 114(1868). Tieghemopanax elegans (C.Moore & F.Muell.) R.Vig., Bulletin de la Societie Botanique de France 53 : 308(1905). Gelibia elegans (C.Moore & F.Muell.) Hutch., The Genera of Flowering Plants 2 : 58(1967). Panax elegans C.Moore & F.Muell., Transactions of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria 2: 68(1857), Type: Richmond River. C. Moore. Moreton Bay. Hill and Muller.
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