There are no active references in this article.
Tree to 20 m. Leaves evergreen, palmate; leaflets (five to) six to seven (to nine), leathery, 12–20 × 3–5 cm, narrowly obovate to elliptic, upper surface glabrous and rugose, lower surface initially covered in greyish white stellate tomentum, but glabrescent, glaucous at maturity, 8–12 pairs of secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire and revolute, rarely serrate or with pinnate lobes in young plants, apex acuminate; petiole to 30 cm long, petiolules stout, 1–2.5 cm long. Inflorescences terminal, paniculate, primary axis to 20 cm long, densely tomentose; flowers in umbels. Flowers small, pedicel 0.5–1 cm long; calyx tiny, inconspicuously five-toothed. Drupe globose, 0.4–0.5 cm diameter, with a persistent style. Xiang & Lowry 2006. Distribution BHUTAN; CHINA: southeast Xizang; INDIA: Sikkim, West Bengal only; NEPAL. Habitat Evergreen broadleaved forest, between 2500 and 3200 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Hudson 2004, Hutchinson 2005; NT774.
Schefflera rhododendrifolia is best known under its synonym S. impressa – an epithet that boringly refers to the sunken (impressed) appearance of the leaf veins on dried specimens, rather than to the plant’s impressive appearance overall. When young the stem tends to shoot straight up, forming a column composed of the large leaves arranged around the stem, branching only later (or if the top is damaged). It is a perfect choice to bring contrast to a planting of, for example, rhododendrons or other woodland shrubs. The new growth emerges covered in brown stellate hairs, and these remain on the leaf undersides and scattered over other parts as the leaf matures, giving a slightly scurfy look to the otherwise dark green foliage when seen up close.
Although Edward Needham’s plants in Cornwall are perhaps the best known to Schefflera enthusiasts, and have been propagated commercially, probably the first attempt to grow this species outside was made by Sir Peter Hutchinson, in Argyll. His plant was collected as a seedling in Nepal in 1965; after a few years in a pot – during which time it ‘looked as if it had strayed out of an airport lounge somewhere’ – it was planted out, and still survives, as a 10 m tree. Having come through the hard winter of 1981–1982 its potential as a hardy plant was revealed (Hutchinson 2005), and a few specimens were propagated and distributed. Since then, S. rhododendrifolia has become an important feature in the gardens where it is established. At Tregrehan, for example, it has shot up, both in the woodland garden (to about 5 m) and against the house (3.5 m). As a tree from comparatively low altitudes in the Himalaya (for example, GWJ 9375, collected at 3000 m on the Singalila Ridge above Darjeeling), its apparent hardiness should not be taken for granted everywhere, but in a sheltered site this species has huge potential. Some variation is evident among plants in cultivation. For example, the original Needham stock has broader, more rounded leaflets than those of GWJ 9375. Dan Hinkley (pers. comm. 2008) has noted, both in the wild and in cultivation (from his collection DJHB 1071, made in northern Sikkim in 2005), that the young leaves can be strongly lobed.