The Chinese Rice Paper Plant
The Chinese rice paper plant (Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’) is an exotic giant that survives winter nestled in against one of our stone walls. The hermaphrodite flowers usually appear with the first autumn frosts in England, causing them to blacken before they have opened fully, but worry not, the plant is well worth growing for foliage alone. It flaunts large palm looking leaves reminiscent of lush jungles and although individual stems can die to the ground after hard frosts, it will sucker and re-shoot from the ground, creating a slowly spreading clump. Our specimen has seen many such winters and now stands as an imposing beast at the beginning of the long border. Take a closer look at this foreigner next time you pass. The pith of the thick stems contain the raw material for rice paper which was widely used to create artificial flowers and watercolour paper in the 19th century.