Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Schefflera actinophylla (Endl.) Harms

Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
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Flowers. © CSIRO
Habit, leaves and flowers. © CSIRO
Fruit. © W. T. Cooper
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO

Harms, H.A.T. in Engler, H.G.A. & Prantl, K.A.E. (1894) Die Naturlichen Pflanzenfamilien 3(8): 36.

Common name

Umbrella Tree; Octopus Tree


Usually grows into a tree seldom exceeding 30 cm dbh but also flowers and fruits as a shrub.


Stipules attached to the base of the compound leaf petiole and closely appressed to the twigs. One stipule per leaf. Leaf bearing twigs very stout, usually more than 2 cm diameter. Leaflet blades about 15-30 x 7.5-11 cm.


Inflorescence large, individual branches 50 cm long or longer. Flowers sessile in heads. Perianth tube about 5 mm diameter at the apex. Stamens ten, filaments about 2.5 mm long. Ovary rounded, hemispherical at the apex, stigma sessile.


Fruits aggregated in heads, about 20-25 mm diam. Individual fruits +/- globose, about 6-8 mm diam. Seed +/- reniform to slightly lunate, about 5-6 x 3 mm, about 10-12 per fruit. Cotyledons about as wide as the radicle.


Cotyledons ovate or elliptic, about 10-12 mm long. At the tenth leaf stage: leaves with 3-6 leaflets, leaflets ovate to elliptic, glabrous, apex acuminate, mucronate, with 2-5 fine pointed teeth on each side; petiole of compound leaf about 10-15 cm long; stipules large, axillary, attached to the base of the petiole. Seed germination time 17 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Widespread in NT, CYP, NEQ, CEQ and south to south-eastern Queensland. Altitudinal range from near sea level to 1000 m. This species can grow as a normal tree but frequently grows as an epiphyte or lithophyte usually in rain forest but also in wet sclerophyll and open forest. Also occurs naturally in the Aru Islands and New Guinea. Now widely cultivated throughout the world and becoming naturalised in various places.

Natural History & Notes

Usually grows as an epiphyte in the crowns of trees but will grow quite happily in the garden. This species produces large inflorescenes and infructescenes. The flowers are very popular with insects including the introduced honey bee nectar or pollen feeding birds which visit in large noisy flocks. The fruits are very popular with birds particularly the Brown Pigeon or Brown Cuckoo Dove (Macropygia amboinensis).

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

Brassaia actinophora Endl., Novarum Stirpium Decades 1: table(1839). Brassaia actinophylla Endl., Novarum Stirpium Decades 10 : 89(1839), Type: Crescit in Nova-Hollandia tropica. (Ferd. Bauer Illustr. t. 334 - 336).
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