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The Reed Field Guide to New Zealand Native Trees

 The Reed Field Guide to New Zealand Native Trees

J.T. Salmon

Which Native Plant Can I Grow Here?

 Which Native Plant Can I Grow Here?

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Cordyline: The Cabbage Trees

A Genera of trees or shrubs centred in the South West Pacific and India of about 15 species. There are 5 New Zealand species.


Cordyline australis , Ti Kouka,Ti, Cabbage tree,

0401 - Cordyline australisCordyline australis
Upright panicles of C.australis The small white flowers of C.australis

A soft stemmed tree, 8-14 m, unbranched when young. Leaves 30-100cm long, 3-6cm wide, not narrowed at the base, flowers small and white but found on long upright panicles. Fruit a small whitish berry that may have small black dots.

One of the most identifiable New Zealand native plants in the landcape.  It has a tall straight trunk or trunks and a dense round head, with a sphere of long narrow leaves.  Cabbage tree produces a profusion of attractive and scented flowers in spring.It is an abundant seeder.  It looks most natural in the ornamental garden if planted in groups. Three or more plants can be planted together in the same hole to produce this effect. It grows in all soils and situations, even in swampy ground, where little else of interest willgrow. It is an excellent tub plant to be admired on patios and varandahs.
90-110 seeds per gram.

cordyline australis bark

Corky bark of Cordyline australis

E kore e riro, he ti tamore no rarotonga

The cabbage tree is never carried away in a gale.

Referring to a person of courage is like a cabbage tree which can withstand a gale.


A large hangi was made to cook ti (Cordyline) root, possibly 8 ft in diamtere or more, and large stoneswere used for it, many people collecting to assist the task. The wood of the rewarewa was not allowed to be used for this purpose ( to heat the oven) because its wood, when decayed, is phosphorescent, like a glow worm, which latter is the offspring of Tanagaroa-piri-whare, themischief maker, and if the wood was used for such a purpose some mishap would occur to future crops.

Maori agriculture Elsdon Best DM Bulletin No.9 1925.


Cordyline trunks about 15cm in diameter and up to 1m. long were cooked in a hangi for about 4 hours.. The cooking softened the inner pith andmade a food not unlike the inner core of a modern cabbage.

Cordyline banksii , Forest Cabbage Tree, Ti Ngahere

Cordyline banksii Ti Ngahere Bush cabbage tree

A shrub or small tree reacing 6 metres. Leaves 1-2.5m. long 4-10cm broad that droop towards the tips and have a long channeled or fluted petiole. Flowers in large panicles. Berry 1cm white or purple. Northcape to Marlborough/Westland.
This Cabbage tree is seldom found in open ground and is often in scrub or deeper forest. It sometimes has an orange midrib.

As a young plant this Cabbage tree is suggestive of a flax with its long drooping leaves, but after a few years it will grow a single trunk and adopt the Cabbage tree form. Note the red mid rib and the parallel bands of yellow and green on the leaves which make it a striking gardenfeature.

The seed s germinate well in conditions close to the temperature of the environment in which they were collected.

90-110 seeds per gram.

Cordyline pumilio , Ti rauriki, dwarf cabbage tree.

A small tree to 1m.  Leaves 0.5-1m. long 4-8mm wide. Flowers in slender panicles 0.5-1m long. Berry 5mm diameter blue/white. Maori  also used Ti rauriki roots as food. North Island distribution.

Cordyline pumilio. Dwarf Cabbage tree. Ti rauriki.

Cordyline kaspar .

Found on the Three Kings Islands at the tip of the North Island. The leaves are softer than the common Cabbage tree and the plant only grows to about 3m.

0412 - Cordyline kaspar


Cordyline indivisa , Toi, Mountain Cabbage tree


Cordyline indivisa


 A tree reaching 8 metres that rarely branches. The leaves are 0.5-2m. long rubbery and glaucus greenin colour. White flowers in large drooping panicles. Berries blue.

A plant of the mountains and sub alpine areas. Te Aroha to Fiordland.


Plant heritage NZ Order on line

I recommend the following books on New Zealand native plants
100 Best NZ Native Plants for Gardens
The Reed Field Guide to New Zealand Native Trees
Trees and Shrubs of New Zealand
Gardener's Encyclopaedia of NZ Native Plants
A Photographic Guide to Ferns of New Zealand
New Zealand Trees and Shrubs: A Comprehensive Guide to Cultivation and Identification
From Weta to Kauri: A Guide to the NZ Forest
Which Native Forest Plant? (Which S.)