Polyscias scutellaria

dinner-plate aralia


Polyscias scutellaria

(Burm.f.) Fosberg 1948

pronounced: pol-ISS-skee-ass skew-tell-AH-ree-uh

(Araliaceae — the ivy family)


common names: dinner-plate aralia, shield aralia

Polyscias is derived from the Greek πολυς (polys), much, many, great, and σκιας (skias), anything serving as a shade, a canopy; scutellaria is Latin, from scutum, a shield, and means ‘shaped like a shield’. Aralia is the Latinized form of the old French-Canadian name for Aralie, or Schefflera urbaniana, a plant it slightly resembles.

This plant was first described by Nicolaas Laurens Burman in 1768 as Crassula scutellaria, and Francis Raymond Fosberg reclassified it as a Polyscias in 1948. It is still known to gardeners as an Aralia. The plant pictured is growing in the nature strip at the side of Cook Road in Arcadia.
This shrub, a native to some of the Pacific Islands and parts of Africa, usually grows to about 2 m in height, but can be as large as 6 m, given the right conditions. It is often grown as a tall hedge. The stems are green speckled with grey.

Its leaves are 1- or 2-pinnate; the leaf-stalks are about 30 cm long, enlarged and clasping at the base, winged for 1 – 6 cm with membranous wings; petiolules are 1 – 5 cm, and there are usually 1, 3 or 5 leaflets, rarely 2 or 4. The leaflets are broadly elliptic to reniform, occasionally ovate or obovate, 5 – 20 cm across, papery to almost leathery, the base shallowly cordate or convex, margins crenate to dentate, often white.

Tiny light-green flowers occur in erect panicles. The fruit is a drupe.

Propagation is usually by stem tip cuttings. These shrubs prefer a fairly sunny to half-shady situation in fairly moist soil, although they do not actually need a high light environment – leaf edges may turn brown in too much sun.

The plant is reported to be used in treating hair loss and urinary disorders.


Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.


Photographs taken in Arcadia 2014
Page last updated 18th March 2019