Schefflera digitata (Pate, Seven Finger)
Species: S. digitata
Binomial name: Schefflera digitata
Common names: Patē, Patatē, Seven-finger, Pate
Schefflera digitata is a tree endemic to New Zealand. It is a small, spreading tree up to 8 m high with stout branches.
It occurs in lowland to lower montane forests from sea level to 1200 m in the North Island, South Island, and Stewart Island, covering a latitudinal range from 34°S to 47°S. It prefers damp, shady parts of the forest and is common along stream banks and on shady forest roadsides. It is the only New Zealand representative of the genus Schefflera which has 200 species of shrubs and small trees in the tropics and subtropics.
The leaves may have from three to nine leaflets. The leaflets are thin and soft to the touch with sharply serrated margins. In the north of the North Island, S. digitata has a juvenile stage in which the leaflets are divided into irregular toothed lobes.
The late summer inflorescences are large, multi-branched panicles up to 35 cm across, with umbels of small greenish flowers arising at irregular intervals along its length. Each umbel contains up to ten flowers each about 7 mm in diameter. The ripe violet to black fruits are fleshy, round, and grooved when dry. They are about 3.5 mm in diameter and take two or three months to ripen. These are an important food source for many of the native birds.
The sap of the tree has medicinal uses, and has been used to treat ringworm and sores on the skin. The wood was used by Maori to make fire by friction.
Seven-finger is the most common host of the parasitic plant Dactylanthus taylori. This is a root parasite which was known to the Maori as 'Pua-o-te-reinga', 'the flower of the underworld' or by Europeans; Wood rose.
Young leaves with undulated margins.
The top surface of an adult leaf. The veins are sunk.
The under surface of an adult leaf . The veins are raised.
The serations number about 10 per cm on a Schefflera digitata leaf. On Pseudopanax arboreus (Five finger) the serations are larger about 1 per cm. Below the serated leaf margin of Schefflera digitata,
Photo of fruit mid May Mt Egmont/Taranaki.
Closeup of the fruit of which some are ripe.
A young Schefflera digitata with eight leaves. The group on the left has seven.
Juvenile leaves of Schefflera digitata