Schefflera actinophylla

umbrella tree


Schefflera actinophylla

(Endl.) Harms 1894

pronounced: sheff-LER-uh ack-tin-oh-FILL-uh

(Araliaceae — the ivy family)

subfamily: Aralioideae

synonym — Brassaia actinophylla

Endl. 1839

pronounced: brass-EYE-uh ack-tin-oh-FILL-uh

common name: umbrella tree

native 4The genus Schefflera, which has about 650 species, was named in 1776 by J.R and G. Foster in honour of the botanist J.C. Scheffler of Danzig. The name actinophylla is derived from two Greek words, ακτις (actis), a ray, and φυλλας (phyllas), leaves, and indicates that the leaves radiate from a central point.

The Umbrella Tree is native to the tropical rainforests of eastern Queensland, the Northern Territory, New Guinea and Java. It was collected by Banks and Solander at the Endeavour River in 1770.

It has been planted in many gardens and nature strips on Magnetic Island. There are three fine specimens on the corner of Granite and Birt Streets in Picnic Bay. This spectacular tree can grow to about 15 metres tall, has compound leaves in groups of seven, is usually multi-trunked, and the flowers develop at the ends of the trunks.

The flower racemes are up to 2 metres long, and can contain up to a thousand small dull red flowers. Flowering begins in early summer, and can continue for several months. The flowers produce large amounts of nectar, and attract honey-eating birds. The fruits are eaten by many birds, and also by fruit bats.

It is an aggressive plant, and its roots can dominate surrounding soil, and invade drains. In some areas (e.g. Florida and Hawaii) it has been declared an invasive weed. In colder climates, it is often grown as a house-plant.
In New Guinea, the Umbrella Tree has been observed as an epiphyte, i.e., tree-perching (but non-parasitic), starting as much as 12 metres above the ground.

The tree seeds itself very easily, causing it to grow in places where a large tree is not wanted! It also sheds its leaves constantly, creating a littered appearance underneath.


Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2005, 2008
Page last updated 31st March 2019