Northern Australia, New Guinea, Java
The octopus tree is very difficult to control after it has become established in natural areas. It can be found invading areas native to scrub trees that suffer from a lack of sunlight caused by the large octopus tree shading native vegetation. One of the plants negatively effected by shading from the octopus tree is the threatened scrub pinweed (Lechua cernua), endemic to Florida. Listed as a category I invasive species by Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC).
Evergreen tree to12 m (40 ft) tall, with single or multistemmed trunks and greenish bark. Leaves alternate with petioles to 61 cm (2 ft) long; palmately compound with mostly 7-16 leaflets, these shiny, light green, oblanceolate, to 30 cm (12 in) long, with margins entire (or sparsely toothed when young). Flowers 25 mm (1 in) across, borne in dense clusters that form a large, red, showy inflorescence at stem tips above foliage. Fruit a purplish black, round, fleshy drupe to 7 mm (1/4 in) in diameter.
The related Schefflera arboricola is a dwarf, compact shrub that is less apt to flower and fruit in the landscape, and is thus less invasive. It has smaller leaves and is available with variegated yellow-and-green foliage. Schefflera actinophylla has leaflets that are up to 12 inches in length, while S. arboricola's leaves are much smaller, only 4-6 inches long.
Introduced to Florida landscaping in 1927 and noted as escaping cultvation in southern manner of strangler figs (Morton 1976). Noted as escaping in Pinellas County in 1982 (Wunderlin). Now naturalized and spreading in a variety of habitats, from cypress strands to sand pine scrub, from the full sun of beach dunes to the deep shade of hammocks (Thayer 1998).
In Florida, vouchered specimens have been reported in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota Collier, Lee, Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Indian River and Brevard.
Do not plant. Promptly remove seedlings. Remove and discard flower stalks before fruit is produced.