Schefflera taiwaniana and its cousins

Schefflera taiwaniana (台湾鹅掌柴) is a new evergreen shrub from high mountains of Taiwan. The unique thing about this elegant beauty is that it is much hardier than your typical house plant Scheffleras (S. arboricola and S. actinophylla ). Now Monrovia Nursery may have been too optimistic to give it a cold tolerance rating of USDA Zone 7, which is 0F or -17.8C, but judging by the reports from zone-pushing gardeners in UK, it is at least good to about 20F. So it should be great as a tropicalesque backdrop for most Bay Area gardens.

It was Dan Hinkley the renowned plant explorer who first brought this plant back to the U.S., but while his fellow collector from UK has had it available at Crug Farm Nursery for quite some time (For plant lovers, it is painful to see many other exciting Schefflera species exclusively available there), Schefflera taiwaniana never went into trade here. A certain large seed company may played a part when they bought Dan’s independent nursery, Heronswood, and subsequently moved it to the East Coast.

The fortune has finally changed a couple years ago, when Monrovia and Dan teamed up to offer a line of collector plants including S. taiwaniana. It is scheduled to be widely released in spring 2012, but a few plants has gotten out last year (2010) and it caused quite a stir among serious gardeners in the Pacific Northwest.

1st Schefflera taiwaniana 2nd Schefflera taiwaniana

Last November (2010), I was pleasantly surprised to see a pair of this plant at a local nursery in South San Jose. One was taken home for trial (above left) with the other left for fellow enthusiasts. Now imagine my surprise when I visited this nursery again in March 2011 and saw that the other plant was still there. Guess there may not be as many plant nuts as I thought in the South Bay, or at least they do not frequent this particular nursery. So in order to encourage the nursery to stock more exotic plants I bought this other one (top right) as well.

Another hardy Schefflera I am trying is S. delavayi (穗序鹅掌柴, below left) from Cistus Nursery. It has wide leaflets that will develop heavy indentation when mature. An even more recent acquisition is a dainty Schefflera microphylla (below right) from the San Francisco Botanical Garden, when its director Don Mahoney gave a talk to my local plant group, The Western Horticultural Society. This plant is from Luzon island of the Phillipines and it is not hardy outside. But its small size will come in handy when I take it in during winter. Trial propagation has already started and so far it has been very promising.

S. delavayi S. microphylla

Here is a group shot of the three Schefflera species I grow. For scale, S. taiwaniana on top is in a five gallon container.

Three Scheffleras

Here is a group shot of two small scheffleras and one close relative Metapanax delavayi (梁王茶), also from Cistus Nursery. This photo is very recent and one can see the light-colored new leaves on S. delavayi.

S. delavayi, S. microphylla, and Metapanax delavayi