Cabbage Tree / Tī Kōuka
Iconic in NZ rural scenery. Named after Captain Cook witnessed Māori eating the boiled core of the unopened leaf shoot after all leaves were removed. As well as a food source, cabbage trees were used by Māori in medicine. The fibrous leaves were also important in weaving for snares, waka, sandals and other articles exposed to the weather. Flowering in profusion indicates a dry summer ahead.
10m+ x 4m. Flax-like leaves atop a trunk that usually only branches after a number of years. Dead leaves often hang in a skirt below the green leaves. Corky bark on fire-resistant trunks.
The strong tap-root helps to reduce soil erosion on steep banks and river-sides. Great also in wetland and riparian planting due to their high tolerance for wet soils. Cabbage trees are best planted away from lawns, as fallen leaves can be a nuisance by jamming lawn-mowers. Conveniently, the dead leaves make good kindling. The berries attract kereru and other native birds.
Highly tolerant of a variety of sites and soils, but dislikes extended periods of drought. Good in pots, as with its many varieties.
New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax) – without a trunk, and has longer, broader, glossy leaves that are thick and leathery. Flowers are held on stalks >2m high.
Taranaki Education Resource – Cordyline australis
South Canterbury GenWeb – Cabbage tree/ti kouka
NZ Plant Conservation Network – Cordyline australis
Department of Conservation – Cabbage tree/ti kouka