Tetrapanax papyrifer leaf

Source: Own work

Tetrapanax papyrifer leaf
Pairi Daiza

Tetrapanax papyrifer or rice paper plant is an evergreen shrub with huge leaves.

It is quite hardy and a strong grower.

There are cultivars such Steroidal Giant and Rex with even bigger leaves.


Tetrapanax papyrifer is a shrub or small tree, up to 3.5 m high, covered with a dense rust-colored or light brown asteroid tomentum. The trunk is up to 9 cm in diameter, the pith is homogeneous and white.

The petiole is round, up to 50 cm tall and glabrous. The leaf blade is ovate-oblong, 50-75 cm wide, papery or leathery, densely covered with rust-colored or light brown asteroid tomentum below, glabrous on top, 7-12-lobed, with obtuse to cordate base, margin entire to coarsely serrate, apex acuminate.

The inflorescence is terminal, on a stalk of 1-1.5 cm long, with umbels of 1-2 cm in diameter and numerous yellow-white flowers.

The fruit is dark purple when ripe, spherical, 4 mm in diameter.

The tomentum is irritating to the respiratory tract.


The white pith is cut off from the woody parts and then crushed for the production of rice paper. Rice paper is used since the second century BC in China.

The pith is also widely used as the traditional medicine ‘Tong Cao’ to clear heat, promote lactation and eliminate water.

Tetrapanax papyrifer

Source: Own work

Tetrapanax papyrifer
Pairi Daiza


Common names:

Chinese Rice-Paper-Plant, Pith-Paper Plant, Rice-Paper Plant, Rice-Paper Tree, Rice-Paper-Plant, Ricepaper Plant


Aralia mairei, Aralia papyrifera, Didymopanax papyrifer, Didymopanax papyriferus, Echinopanax papyriferus, Fatsia papyrifera, Panax papyrifer


Tetrapanax: from the Greek tetra (four) and panakeia (panacea)
Papyrifer: from the Latin papȳrus ‎(paper) and‎ -fer ‎(bearing)


Taiwan and South China


Scrub, 100-2,800 m altitude


USDA zone 8-10
The part above ground dies but growth resumes the following spring

Tetrapanax papyrifer leaf size

Source: Own work

Tetrapanax papyrifer leaf size
Pairi Daiza



Any soil but prefers rich and well drained soil


Sun, light or partial shade


Moderate water needs


Is a strong grower, give a generous portion of organic fertilizer in spring


May be pruned for a more beautiful shape


Forms many suckers to a few meters of the plant. Regularly pull the suckers or install a root barrier.


Seed, suckers

Sowing instructions:

  • sow in light soil at 5 mm depth
  • moisten
  • 25-30 °C
  • germination: fresh seeds will germinate in a few days, otherwise in a few weeks
  • repot when the seedlings are easy to handle, repot them into individual pots and protect from frost the first winter


The suckers are sensitive to frost, they also have to be protected from frost the first winter.
Take the suckers in the spring.