A small, unisexual, evergreen tree of rounded shape, freely branched and 12 to 25 ft high, all its parts free from down; young shoots stout. Leaves digitate, the three, five, or seven leaflets arranged at the end of a main-stalk as in the horse chestnut. Leaflets elliptic-oblong to narrowly obovate, coarsely and bluntly toothed, tapered to both ends, often more abruptly at the apex; 3 to 8 in. long, 1 to 3 in. wide, dark glossy green above, paler beneath; stalks of leaflets 1⁄2 to 1 in. long; main-stalk up to 8 in. long, the base dilated and clasping the stem. Flowers in compound umbels terminating the shoot, their main-stalks short and thick or almost non-existent; from the end of each radiate eight to twelve primary divisions each on a stalk 2 to 4 in. long, and from the end of each of these radiate divisions of a third dimension to the number of ten or twenty, each 1⁄2 to 11⁄2 in. long and bearing at the end a rounded umbel of some ten or fifteen flowers. These flowers are 1⁄4 in. wide, greenish brown and of no beauty; petals five, obovate; stamens five, spreading. Fruits purplish black, rather compressed-globose, 1⁄4 in. wide, crowned by the recurved styles. Bot. Mag., t. 9280.
Native of New Zealand, mostly of the lowlands, but ascending to 2,500 ft; long introduced. It is not hardy at Kew, but there used to be a good tree in the Temperate House, where it grew for many years and became eventually as large apparently as it is found at home. In New Zealand the tree often begins life as an epiphyte on the stems of tree-ferns, down which it extends its roots until they reach the ground. It is a handsome foliage tree of a type unusual in the open air, but common enough in glass houses.
The following specimens were recorded in Eire in 1966: Ashbourne House, Co. Wicklow,
P. laetus (Kirk) W. R. Philipson Panax arboreum var. laetum Kirk; Nothopanax laetum (Kirk) Cheesem.; Neopanax laetum (Kirk) Allan – This species is closely allied to the preceding, differing in its somewhat larger and relatively broader leaflets, which are up to 10 in. long and 4 in. wide; and in the reddish-purple petioles. A native of the North Island of New Zealand. Tender. The finest specimen in the British Isles grows at Castlewellan in Co. Down.