Schefflera digitata, the patatē, seven-finger, or umbrella tree, is a widespread tree endemic to New Zealand. Māori names include: patē, patatē, patete, and kōtētē. It occurs in lowland to lower montane forests from sea level to 1200 m in the montane areas throughout the country. It prefers damp, shady parts of the forest and is common along stream banks and on shady forest roadsides. Often confused with Pseudopanax arboreus, but the leaflets of Pseudopanax species are thicker, smaller, and with larger teeth on the margin.
Pleasant shrub or small tree with a tropical appearance, sometimes deciduous in the south. Flowers in large, drooping panicles of tiny greenish-white flowers in summer (February-March) are attractive to bees. The purple berries of Schefflera digitata in autumn are an important food source for birds from February to March. Evergreen. Hardy when mature, frost tender when young. Other native trees that provide excellent food for honey bees and our own native bees (Leioproctus, Lasioglossum, and Hylaeus genera), are Fuchsia excorticata, Cordyline australis, Pseudopanax arboreus, Kunzea spp., and Pittosporum tenuifolium.
Māori had various used for Patatē, including dyes from the dark berry juice and as an ointment for skin fungi. For more information on traditional uses, see Landcare Research’s Ngā Rauropi Whakaoranga database here.