Recumbent umbrella tree responds to light with starfish

My mental image of an Umbrella Tree is of a perky shrub or small tree, in gardens around Sydney. A species that used to be called Schefflera actinophylla but is now Heptapleurum actinophyllum. (Schefflera now includes only eight species, with this new genus holding more than 300 from Asia - including northern Australia.)

The (Australian) Umbrella Tree is native to tropical Queensland and Northern Territory, extending northward into Indonesia. As a weed it extends further south in northern New South Wales, and as an indoor plant, into homes around the world (although there are other species sold and grown as Umbrella Tree).  

The plant illustrated here is a different species of Heptapleurum, and previously Schefflera, called Heptapleurum ellipticum. And it has a rather different habit. The drooping canes need to be staked to stop them being trampled or perhaps mown, here on what we call Dog Flat. That's because in its native habitat, again in northern Australia and up into Asia, it is a climbing or scrambling plant, relying on nearby forest plants for support.

You might argue this Climbing Umbrella Tree, as it is appropriately named in the vernacular, might perhaps be better situated further back in the garden bed. I'll get to that.

The branched flowering stems are much as I remember them from the Umbrella Trees in Sydney and further north, although more like a starfish than Sideshow Bob's hair. Regular readers of my blog will know that I've already made this comparison before, with a palm called Burretiokentia hapala from New Caledonia. But is also applies to Heptapleurum actinophyllum.

The flower clusters of Heptapleurum ellipticum are less extended, and from a distance look like purple starfish, whether in claret-red bud - which might look like fruits, but aren't - or when opened to reveal the soft yellow anthers.

After discovering this specimen escaping its garden bed, I sought out the other dozen or so in Melbourne Gardens to see if they are better supported by surrounding vegetation. I found a few and they were all deeper within the garden beds but equally sprawling and unwieldy. Here's one...

No staking required here but then also no flowering. Perhaps the extra sunlight is worth a little extra effort if we get those echinoderm flowering structures.