tetrapanax in bloom

I know a lot of Tetrapanax papyrifer in zones colder than my zone 10 have their blooms regrettably cut short by winter. Let me just ease your zonal envy a bit, as you gaze on these bodacious panicles, and fully disclose that they are the worst fly-attracting blooms I have ever encountered. An evil amount of flies pockmark the wheat-colored panicles. Buzzing clouds of them lift off and swarm the air every time I pass. Only late in the day do they finally disperse.

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Another surprise, and a much nicer one, has been that despite its fearsome reputation for expansionism, it’s so far proven relatively benign. Relative, that is, in comparison to the ‘Golden Chain’ Arundo donax we tore out in the fall, which was terrifyingly vigorous. Those bright gold, bamboo-like spears were infiltrating far more valuable trees and shrubs.

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And for a garden first, I used Marty’s shop vac to blow out the pollen that accumulates like drifts of snow in the agaves and succulents at the base of the tetrapanax. With the first heavy rainfall in years, the thick pollen snow was becoming paste-like and overwhelming the crowns of plants growing under those enormous shaggy leaves. Which do provide valuable high shade for the understory plants mid-summer.

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It’s always something, isn’t it?

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15 Responses to tetrapanax in bloom

  1. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Swoon! Fly attracting or not, those are gorgeous blooms! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Denise says:

    Peter, I’m telling you, these flies almost have me convinced to cut the blooms next year. It’s that bad.

  3. David says:

    Wow! Did you get this SoCal? If so, where?

  4. Denise says:

    David, I mail-ordered it from Kartuz Greenhouses back in 2009 (P.O. Box 790, Vista, Ca 92085-0790, (760) 941-3613, http://www.kartuz.com). I purposely avoided the ‘Steroidal Giant’ cultivar, because I was assuming I wouldn’t need the added vigor here in SoCal (yikes!)

  5. hoov says:

    The flowers look great with ‘Stained Glass’, and by the color will also look great with Grevillea ‘Moonlight’.

    I have a friend, native of Butte, Montana who was incredulous on her first visit to Southern California to find there were flies in winter. “Doesn’t the first hard frost kill them all off?”, she asked. When I asked her was a “hard frost” was, she thought at first I was kidding.

  6. Kris P says:

    But it takes such pretty pictures!

  7. Wow, they are beautiful…and I can imagine how messy. You’re right, it is always something…

  8. Denise says:

    @Hoov, I did plant a grevillea under the tetra but a smaller one than Moonlight. It’s bright red Robyn Gordon. I do regret not having a killing frost when it comes to certain insects.
    @Kris, it does. And before blogs all we had were pretty pictures!
    @Loree, after you’ve seen them they’re outta here!

  9. Lisa says:

    I´ve never seen Tetrapanax papyrifer blooming! It´s beautiful! although I´m glad I dont have to suffer all those flies around it 🙂

  10. Jessica M says:

    I had no idea this delicately beautiful plant had such an impressive name! It’s just gorgeous. Can I grow it indoors?

  11. James Golden says:

    I just tried to kill the Steroidal Giant I planted in my 20 by 35-foot Brooklyn garden. It was an extraordinary presence, but after its third year, it was spreading uncontrollably. Too bad I didn’t plant it in a garbage can. I cut it down, drilled holes into the shortened stems, and poured ultrapowerful (I hope) Roundup into the holes. I loved it so much, I may try again, but I’d first sink a metal container into the ground. Though 11 or 12 feet tall, mine never approached flowering.

  12. Denise says:

    @Lisa, it”s kind of those typical fatsia-like blooms, just huge. Everything is big with this plant.
    @J — I’ve never heard it done before. I’ve never even brought in the big leaves for a vase, which I think I’ll try next year when there’s fresh leaves.
    @James, that’s the behavior I’ve been expecting. There’s been a few runners popping up but nothing as bad as macleaya or the arundo. Must vary soil to soil maybe? Heavy clay here.

  13. David Feix says:

    Denise, in my experience with Terapanax, it can take quite a few years of benign behavior before the spreading habit appears, usually after 6/7 years for me. Trevesia palmata blooms are quite similar, as well as fly attracting and rotten odor, but I love the foliage of both! I tend to agree about the flowers, and channel Morticia Adams.

  14. Denise says:

    David, this one at 5 yrs old might make that leap in the coming years, so thanks for the head’s up.

  15. Terrie Kaufman says:

    I am in Vancouver, WA and I have been in LOVE with my Tetrapanex for several years. They bloom, there are no flies but my husband calls it “the nasty plant” as the pollen literally chokes us but I still repot the babies and sell them each year. Where can one find such a tropical tree in a zone 6-8? Nowhere………….

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