Plant Collector: Schefflera septulosa

Schefflera septulosa - frost tender and rather large

Schefflera septulosa – frost tender and rather large

Back in the 1950s, my late father in law, Felix Jury, went on a plant hunting trip in the highlands of New Guinea. In those days, one could still bring new plants into this country and one of those he brought back was this very graceful schefflera which was identified as S. septulosa. After sixty years, it seems that it is still very rare in cultivation.

Schefflera septulosa from New Guinea highlands

Schefflera septulosa from New Guinea highlands

Scheffleras are a huge family belonging to the Araliaceae group (which includes ivy). Most come from tropical and subtropical parts of Asia. Some are widely grown as house plants, while some are relatively hardy to cooler temperatures. S. septulosa is neither. The original plant here is about 5 metres tall and even young plants get large relatively quickly. The surest way to knock it back and to burn off the foliage is to let frost get at it. We grow it on the woodland margins where the canopy from higher trees shelters it. But no other schefflera I have seen is as handsome. It shoots from the base so is more shrubby than tree-like in form and the leaves are large, held in a palm shape and heavily textured, matt dark green. With its brown velvety stems, it is a striking plant.

Scheffleras flower, but I have to be honest and say they are so insignificant on S. septuolosa that I have never noticed them. Mark tells me the bees are the best indicator that there are flowers because they flock in. Generally, they are regarded as foliage plants. The chances of finding S. septulosa for sale are not good, but occasionally you may find the splendid, large leafed “Condor” on offer. It is an unidentified species from Uruguay, so some distance away from New Guinea. It was introduced by Aucklander, Dick Endt of Landsendt. Both make handsome garden additions in warm areas protected from frost.

First published in the Waikato Times and reproduced here with their permission.