A tree which grows throughout tropical Africa called Polyscias fulva or the Parasol Tree is not often seen in New Zealand. This tree belongs to the Aralia family to which our Lancewood belongs.
This tree has the longest leaves of any plant that I have in my collection, the biggest being over two metres long although in researching this article most say that they grow only to a metre or more in length. The leaves are compound, once pinnate, leathery, dark green on top and velvety silvery- gold, green below.
The common name is given because the branching occurs at one spot on the trunk like the ribs of an upside down umbrella. I have found that this can cause problems in high winds as if one branch blows off then others can follow and then the top blows off as the trunk has been girdled. However new shoots appear and the tree fills out again very quickly.
In its natural habitat it is a colonising species and one of the first to appear when forest is cut down. It grows rapidly as a single stem then branches and grows up to 25 metres high. I don’t think it will grow that big here.
The timber is soft and not much use as firewood but it is used in Africa for food containers, utensils, stools and musical instruments, in particular drums for which it is particularly good. The drum is made out of a hollowed log over which goat or cattle skins are stretched.
Mine hasn’t flowered yet but the flowers are relatively insignificant. They have a honey scent.
Full sun is the best position with well drained soils and summer moisture is appreciated.
Because of its upwards growth gardening can be done under it. A very interesting tree if you have the room.