T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Tetrapanax papyrifer (Rice paper plant)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Apiales
Family: Araliaceae
Subfamily: Aralioideae
Genus: Tetrapanax
Species: T. papyrifer
Binomial name: Tetrapanax papyrifer
Synonym: Aralia papyrifera, Fatsia papyifera
Common names: Rice paper plant, Chinese rice-paper plant, Figleaf palm, Ricepaper flower, Rice-paper tree, Aralia

Tetrapanax papyrifer is an evergreen shrub in the family Araliaceae, the sole species in the genus Tetrapanax. It is endemic to Taiwan, but is widely cultivated in East Asia and in other tropical regions as well. The species was once included in the genus Fatsia as Fatsia papyrifera.

It is evergreen, rounded shrub or small tree up to 8 m tall. Stems are densely covered in hairs when young, becoming more or less hairless with prominent leaf scars when older. Leaves are large and rounded heart-shaped, with toothed margins and (3-12) deep lobes (indented 1/3-2/3 of leaf radius). They are densely hairy on both surfaces when young, becoming more or less hairless above when mature, and are held on long leaf stalks (10-50 cm). Tiny white flowers are held in white, woolly, ball-like clusters on a large, branched stem that extends beyond the foliage. The fruit is a small drupe.


Tetrapanax papyrifer is a vigorous, environmental weed and is highly invasive. It will invade disturbed forest and shrubland, forest margins, stream banks, urban areas, roadsides and waste places. It spreads by suckers up to 2 m long and grows into thickets. It shades out native species. Contact with foliage can irritate the skin.

  





 



Painting of Tetrapanax papyrifer from 'Gatherings of a naturalist in Australasia' by George Bennett (1860)