Cabbage tree, Ti kouka,
The cabbage tree is an iconic tree, endemic to New Zealand. With it’s unusual and distinctive shape, cabbage trees are a feature of the NZ landscape.
It is fast growing, attaining a height of 5-10 metres and is not difficult to establish.
The cabbage tree is one of the most widely cultivated New Zealand natives, within New Zealand and around the world.
It is common and widespread throughout New Zealand from coastal to montane forest, in a wide range of habitats along forest margins in clearings and around swamps.
The cabbage tree is very hardy, tolerating very wet conditions and dry, windy conditions and is a primary colonising plant used in any restoration planting.
The young tree has long narrow green leaves that arise directly from a single truck.
As it matures the trunk becomes bare and branches out. If undamaged the cabbage tree will not branch until after its first flowering.
Large panicles of creamy, fragrant flowers appear in late spring and early summer followed by white berries, which is food for the native birds. The seed is widely dispersed by the birds.
The cabbage tree ability to store water enables it to survive harsh conditions. Because it is very resilient it is often the last indigenous species to persist within cleared land.
This plant has many uses for Maori including fibre, food and medicinal.
Maori have a belief that if the cabbage tree flowers profusely a hot summer will follow.
The early settlers gave the name cabbage tree to the ti kouka because they used to boil and eat the young shoots.
It is grown by seed, which germinates readily when fresh.
The white butterfly caterpillar can cause damage to younger plants. Plants can also be susceptible to rust when young.
The disease that causes the plant to wilt with the leaves falling off is known as Sudden Decline. There is no cure and the tree will die within days.
The cabbage tree can be used in a group planting or specimen planting for a strong vertical element in the garden.
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