583 Tetrapanax papyiferusCommon Names: Rice-paper plant, Aralia papyifera (syn.), Fatsia papyifera (syn.) Family: Araliaceae (ginseng Family)
Rice paper plant is a thicket-forming evergreen shrub or small tree with huge long-petiole leaves that are 10-15 in (15.4-38 cm) across. The palmate lobed leaves (5-11 toothed lobes) are densely white-pubescent and feltlike beneath. An individual shrub can reach 15 ft (4.6 m) tall with a similar spread. it may, however, be part of a thicket covering a much larger area. The flowers are white wooly balls arranged in large conspicuous panicles up to 3 ft (0.9 m) long that extend up and outward beyond the foliage. The flowers appear in autumn and are followed by clusters of spherical black berries, each about 1/8 in (0.3 cm) in diameter. The cultivar, 'Variegata', has dark green leaves variegated with cream or white.
Rice paper plant, Tetrapanax papyiferus, is native to southern China and Taiwan. It has escaped cultivation and become established in disturbed areas in peninsular Florida.
CultureLight: Light shade. Moisture: Needs regular watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 11. In zones 7-9 rice paper plant dies to the ground in winter and sprouts back in spring. Propagation: From seeds or from cuttings in early spring.
Rice paper plant is grown for its attractive large, fan-shaped leaves. Use it in a sheltered location because it is susceptible to damage from wind. Rice paper plant is a good choice against a wall. Mix it with other large-leaved plants for a tropical look. In mild winter areas the rugged rice paper plant is a good choice for outdoor containers in frostfree areas and indoors where its dramatic foliage adds interest to any interior.
A type of fine "rice" paper is made from the pith of the stems of this plant. Like its American relative, devil's walking-stick (Aralia spinosa), rice paper plant produces flowers that are very attractive to bees.
Rice paper plant spreads by suckering and forms thickets, so use it where there is room for expansion. Some suckers may come up as far as 20 ft (2.1 m) from the parent plant. Some people get a rash from contact with the foliage.
Steve Christman 11/02/99; updated 11/24/04