Harakeke / NZ Flax
The name Phormium comes from the Greek term for “basket”, while tenax is Latin for “strong”. This alludes to its use in weaving by the Maori.
Harakeke is very important to Maori for weaving, to the point that each pa site had its own flax plantation. The many uses of Harakeke extend to food, medicine, construction, past-time and creating dyes.
In some countries, Harakeke has become recognised as an invasive species.
3m x 3m. Easily discernible from the other native Phormium because of its greater size and upturned seed pods. Colourful variants are available at most nurseries.
This native plant is very popular in riparian and revegetation planting – giving shelter and privacy to birds as well as supporting the soil.
It thrives in wetlands, coastal environments and anything in between. Only suitable in dry areas where well established. Its nectar is a favourite of the tui and bellbird in late spring.
Very hardy of most NZ climates, including coastal salt winds. Plant away from lawn mowers, where old leaves are likely to get caught.
Mountain Flax (Phormium cookianum) – a smaller plant, best distinguished by its seed-heads that hang rather than standing erect.
Cabbage Tree (Cordyline australis) – before developing a trunk, Cabbage tree differs from NZ Flax with its narrower, lighter green leaves that are thin and <1m long.