By Liliana Usvat
- Common Name: Schefflera
- Botanical Name: Brassaia actinophylla
- Benefits: Said to remove benzene (a carcinogenic substance) from the air.
- Notes: Can be toxic to pets and children. Prefers bright but indirect sun and lots of water and humidity.
- Trees may reach 40 feet (12 m) tall, and the irregular crowns may spread 15 feet (5 m)
- Potential for post-fire establishment and spread: Because umbrella or octupus tree populations have been associated with disturbed sites , burned areas are potential habitat for seedling establishments.
- In Hawaii and Florida, octopus tree fruits are eaten by several bird species including, but likely not limited to, red-whiskered bulbuls, fish crows, mockingbirds, and European starlings.
It is native to tropical rainforests and gallery forests in Australia (eastern Queensland and the Northern Territory), New Guinea and Java. Common names include Queensland umbrella tree, octopus tree and amate.
The up to 1,000 flowers produced by the plant generate large amounts of nectar, attracting honey-eating birds which then spread the seeds. The fruits are eaten by many birds and animals including musky rat-kangaroos, red-legged pademelons and spectacled flying foxes. Its leaves are a favourite food of the Bennett’s tree-kangaroo.
Umbrella tree indoors as a houseplant is easy to grow if kept warm, in good light and the soil fairly dry. Just follow basic houseplant procedures to have a nice Schefflera indoors all year round
Schefflera is commonly grown in mild to warm climates as a decorative tree in larger gardens and, when mature, it has bright red spikes of flowers with up to 20 racemes which develop in summer or early autumn.
With a minimum temperature of 13°C (55°F), juvenile specimens are grown in temperate regions as houseplants.
Schefflera is said to remove benzene (a carcinogenic substance) from the air.
Take stem tip cuttings in spring and summer. Can be grown from seeds.
Chinese Medicine – Medicinal Uses
The leaves, stem and roots are used in herbal preparations.
According to the concepts of traditional Chinese medicine, schefflera has bitter, sweet and warm properties, and is associated with the Liver meridian. Its main functions are to promote the circulation of the blood and to alleviate pain.
Extracts of schefflera contain a variety of chemicals, including fumaric acid and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid. Modern uses of schefflera include the
- treatment of rheumatoid arthritis,
- numbness in the limbs,
- abdominal pain,
- arthralgia, and
- sore and/or swollen throat.
- It can also help to relieve asthma.
Externally, it can be ground into a paste to treat injuries and stop bleeding.
How much schefflera should I take?
The typical dose of schefflera is between 15 and 30 grams, decocted in water for oral administration.
What can happen if I take too much ?
The leaves and sap from schefflera are considered mildly toxic, and can cause vomiting and numbness in the mouth if taken in large doses. If these symptoms occur, discontinue use immediately. Because of schefflera’s slightly toxic properties, it should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or administered to infants and young children.
Because of schefflera’s anticoagulant effects, it should be used with caution by people taking blood-thinning medications. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking schefflera or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.