Studies in Tetrapanax

Blooms in the classic rosette or composite shape would seem to be selected by many humans as the ideal flower, but gardens throughout the seasons reveal a much more complicated diversity of inflorescence.



Though it may not cause one to reflexively reach for a vase and shears, in morning light the otherworldly tetrapanax blooms conjure galactic explosions, crystalline comet tails, smoky nebulae. And I’m generally not one to rob the garden much for vases anyway.


(I see tetrapanax spelled a multitude of ways, but my Hortus Third uses the spelling “papyriferus” rather than, for example, “papyrifera,” so I’m going with the former.
Hortus describes the flowers “in small, globose umbels arranged in large, terminal woolly panicles.” And it lists a cultivar ‘Variegata,’ which does not appear to be widely available. I would think one could retire on the proceeds from selling nothing but variegated tetrapanax, so it must be a beast to propagate. Isn’t that where tissue culture comes in and saves the day?)

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9 Responses to Studies in Tetrapanax

  1. Kathy says:

    Running the small little-kid fingers along the stems of the Tetrapanax to collect the ‘powder’ is a memory second only to popping the Fuchsias.

  2. Denise says:

    I can’t believe you grew up with tetrapanax. I never see it local in LA. Popping fuchsias I did plenty of, though.

  3. Les says:

    I am glad you posted the opened flowers. I am afraid that our first frost which happened on Monday will keep my Tetrapanax buds from opening. This plant must be a close cousin to Fatsia, the family resemblance is uncanny.

  4. Denise says:

    Les, I was thinking of the resemblance to fatsia too, and also to my fatshedera blooms.

  5. hoover boo says:

    I thought those reseeded everywhere, is that true? What incredible pictures, the flower stalks look like aluminium christmas trees.

    As another fuchsia popper, did you all also make the snapdragons “talk” by squeezing the base of the flower? I taught my sweetie to do that–and then he did that for a gardener in Shanghai who laughed like crazy.

  6. Saucydog says:

    I was unsuccessful in getting tetrapanax to be happy in New England. Of course it was not the bloom I was after, but the leaves. Perhaps I will try again next year.

    Yours is a beauty.

  7. So is your Tetrapanax blooming on an incredibly short plant or are you super tall or on a ladder? I’ve never been able to see the blooms from that angle. Seems I’m always on the ground looking up.

  8. Denise says:

    Hoov, that’s a hilarious story of plant abuse. I haven’t done much snapdragon puppetry, not nearly as much as fuchsia popping. Which was probably the precursor to bubble wrap popping, now that I think about it.
    Saucy, of course you were after the leaves. Must have made amazing casts.
    Loree, the leaves of this first-year plant reach about 3 feet, the bloom stalks are at about 4 feet. I didn’t know what to expect since I haven’t grown it before. Too intimidated by the thuggery rumors to try.

  9. Ron says:

    I am looking for someone who can help me get this gorgeous plant back
    i am had it in our garden and it was lost in a drought 2009. it is a beautiful plant and i am looking for somone who can help me

    I am in Cape Town South Africa

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