Common Names: Octopus Tree, Umbrella Tree, Ivy Palm, Schefflera
The Octopus Tree, Schefflera actinophylla also known as the Umbrella tree belongs to the family Araliaceae. It is native to tropical rainforests and gallery forests of eastern Queensland and the Northern Territory of Australia, New Guinea and Java.
The Octopus Tree Schefflera actinophylla is an evergreen tree growing to 15 m tall. It has compound medium green leaves in groups of seven leaves. It is usually multi-trunked, and the masses of bright red flowers develop at the top of the tree. It often grows as an epiphyte on other rainforest trees or as a lithophyte on rocky outcrops. The Octopus Tree produces up to 1000 individual flowers generating large amounts of nectar which attracts nectar-eating birds and insects. The thousands of fruits produced each containing many seeds are eaten by many birds in particular by Black Collard Barbets and by monkeys, seed dispersal is predominantly carried out by birds.
Schefflera actinophylla is commonly grown in mild to warm climates as a decorative tree in larger gardens and, when mature, it has bright red spikes of flowers with up to 20 racemes which develop in summer or early autumn. Propagation is by seed or cuttings. It prefers well-drained soil and only needs occasional watering and feeding to thrive. It is, however, an aggressive plant and its roots can dominate surrounding soil. In some areas (e.g.,Florida and Hawaii, USA) it is an invasive weed and therefore planting is highly unadvised.