Polyscias verticillata (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Polyscias verticillata Stone

Protologue: J. Arn. Arb. 47: 272 (1966).
Family: Araliaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= unknown

Vernacular names

  • Papua New Guinea: valangur (Pidgin, Kuanua).

Origin and geographic distribution

P. verticillata occurs naturally and in cultivation in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. It is particularly important in the Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain.


The young foliage is eaten fresh or boiled as a green, and as a flavouring for meat and fish. Most of the foliage is still collected from wild trees, but the tree is also occasionally grown as a hedge plant near dwellings.

Production and international trade

In the New Guinea islands P. verticillata is one of the most important gathered greens, usually oven-roasted wrapped in banana leaves; it is used mainly for home consumption, any surplus being sold in local markets. No production statistics are available.


No information is available on the nutritive composition of P. verticillata. The composition of the closely related species P. fruticosa (L.) Harms and P. scutellaria (Burm.f.) Fosb. might serve as an indication. They contain per 100 g edible portion: water 82-84 g, protein 3.5-3.7 g, fat 0.3-0.4 g, carbohydrates 11.8-13.4 g, vitamin A 2900-5450 IU, vitamin B1 0.06 mg, vitamin C 29-83 mg, Ca 474-540 mg, P 49-82 mg, Fe 4.0-6.2 mg. The energy value is 225-250 kJ/100 g.


  • Small, glabrous tree up to 7 m tall, sparingly branched.
  • Leaves arranged spirally towards the ends of the branches, imparipinnate, up to 1 m long; petiole 24-30 cm long, terete with a sheathing base, 6-7 cm long; petiolules 5-20 mm long; leaflets oblong, 16-27 cm × 5-13 cm, base subcordate or truncate, margin entire, slightly revolute or sparsely denticulate, apex acuminate, midrib and lateral veins evident.
  • Inflorescence a large panicle, bearing several long radiating secondary branches in a sub-umbel; secondary branches ca. 50 cm long with numerous 4-7 cm long tertiary branches borne in well-defined verticils and in a terminal umbel; bracts triangular ca. 8 mm long, caducous; umbellules with 10-15 flowers, on pedicels 1-4 mm long; calyx a minute rim; petals 5, violet within, 2.5 mm long; stamens 5, anthers oblong, 1-1.5 mm long; ovary turbinate, 1 mm long, 2-celled; styles 2, persistent in fruit.
  • Fruit a globose drupe, 4-7 mm in diameter when dry, fleshy, purple-black.

P. verticillata is rather aromatic and produces a sweet-scented sticky exudate when wounded.

Three other related Polyscias species, which are common ornamental hedge species throughout South-East Asia, are also used as leafy vegetables:

  • Polyscias cumingiana (C. Presl) Fernandez-Villar (syn. Nothopanax pinnatum (Lamk) Miquel, P. rumphiana Harms): up to 4 m tall shrub or treelet with imparipinnate leaves up to 1 m long; petiole up to 20 cm with a sheathing base of 5-6 cm; leaflets ovate-oblong or elliptical, 10-30 cm × 2-13 cm, margin entire but sometimes pinnatilobed.
  • Polyscias fruticosa (L.) Harms (syn. Nothopanax fruticosum (L.) Miquel, P. obtusa (Blume) Harms): shrub or treelet up to 5 m tall with tripinnate leaves up to 75 m long; petiole up to 25 cm with a sheathing base of 5 cm; leaflets very variable, oblong or linear-lanceolate, 1-12 cm × 0.5-4 cm, deeply serrate or lobed to irregularly pinnatisect.
  • Polyscias scutellaria (Burm.f.) Fosb. (syn. Nothopanax scutellarium (Burm.f.) Merrill, Nothopanax cochleatum (Lamk) Miquel): shrub or treelet up to 6 m tall with simple or trifoliolate leaves variable in size; petiole up to 6(-28) cm with a sheathing base of 1-6 cm; leaf or leaflets rotund or reniform, up to 8(-28) cm in diameter, margin serrate or sublobed; forms with variegated foliage are also in cultivation.


P. verticillata occurs naturally in lowland forest and near beaches, but its use has also been recorded for the highlands of Papua New Guinea, up to 1200 m altitude. It grows well under shade (coconut palms) or in the open.


In nature, seeds are readily produced and spread by birds. Spontaneous seedlings are sometimes collected and used as planting material. Propagation by stem cuttings is easy and commonly practised.

Genetic resources and breeding

No germplasm collection and breeding have been undertaken.


More information is needed to determine whether useful applications other than as a leafy vegetable or as flavouring warrant more extensive cultivation.


  • Department of Primary Industry, 1983. Leafy vegetables. Farming notes 30. Department of Primary Industry, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. pp. 8-9.
  • Philipson, W.R., 1979. Polyscias. In: van Steenis, C.G.G.J. et al. (Editors), 1950- . Flora Malesiana. Series 1. Vol. 9. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, the Netherlands. pp. 72-86.
  • Stone, B.C., 1966. Polyscias verticillata (Araliaceae), a new species from the Solomon Islands. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 47(3): 270-272.
  • Unus Suriawiria, 1987. Lalab dalam budaya dan kehidupan masyarakat Sunda [Lalab in the culture and life of Sundanese society]. Granesia, Bandung, Indonesia. 129 pp.


  • E.A. Widjaja