Where is it found?The cabbage tree/tī kōuka is common throughout farmland, open places, wetlands and scrubland of the North and South Islands, but are rare on Stewart Island.Other species.Aside from tī kōuka, there are four other species found in New Zealand.C. banksii – the forest cabbage tree or tī ngahere.Found throughout the North Island and South Island to north Cantebury in the east and Haast in the west (with unconfirmed reports of it along the northern coastal portion of Fiordland).C.
pumilio – the so called stemless cabbage tree/tī rauriki, usually lacks a trunk and is often found in kauri forest or associated gum land scrub.The good news is that although sudden decline often affects cabbage trees in farmland and open areas, trees in natural forest patches continue to do well.There is still no cure for sudden decline, so we need to keep planting more young cabbage trees to replace the dying populations. .
 It grows in a broad range of habitats, including forest margins, river banks and open places, and is abundant near swamps.Known to Māori as tī kōuka, the tree was used as a source of food, particularly in the South Island, where it was cultivated in areas where other crops would not grow.It provided durable fibre for textiles, anchor ropes, fishing lines, baskets, waterproof rain capes and cloaks, and sandals.Hardy and fast growing, it is widely planted in New Zealand gardens, parks and streets, and numerous cultivars are available.It is also grown as an ornamental tree in higher latitude Northern Hemisphere countries with maritime climates, including parts of the upper West Coast of the United States, Canada and the British Isles, where its common names include Torbay palm and Torquay palm. The leaves grow in crowded clusters at the ends of the branches, and may droop slightly at the tips and bend down from the bases when old.Large, peg-like rhizomes, covered with soft, purplish bark, up to 3 metres (10 feet) long in old plants, grow vertically down beneath the ground.New Zealand's native Cordyline species are relics of an influx of tropical plants that arrived from the north 15 million years ago in the warm Miocene era. When growing in the open, tītī can become massive trees with numerous, long thin branches and relatively short, broad leaves.In the central Volcanic Plateau, cabbage trees are tall, with stout, relatively unbranched stems and large stiff straight leaves.The leaves radiate strongly, suggesting that tī manu is adapted to the cold winters of the upland central plateau.Trees of the tī manu type are also found in northern Taranaki, the King Country and the Bay of Plenty lowlands.In Hawke's Bay, some trees have greener, broader leaves, and this may be because of wharanui characteristics brought in across the main divide through the Manawatu Gorge.The wharanui type occurs in Wellington, Horowhenua and Whanganui, and extends with some modifications to the southern Taranaki coast.The typical form grows, with little variation, from Cape Campbell to the northern Catlins, and from the eastern coast to the foothills of the Southern Alps.In Marlborough's Wairau Valley, cabbage trees tend to retain their old, dead leaves, lending them an untidy appearance.On the river flats, the trees are tall with narrow, lax, dark green leaves, and an uneven canopy.In Otago, cabbage trees gradually become less common towards the south until they come to an end in the northern Catlins.A study of seedlings grown from seed collected in 28 areas showed a north-south change in leaf shape and dimensions.Seedlings often have leaves with red-brown pigmentation which disappears in older plants, and this coloration becomes increasingly common towards the south.tītī with its root system, surveyed on Great Barrier Island, hand drawing by Axel Aucouturier, 2020 Profile of a still juvenilevar.tītī with its root system, surveyed on Great Barrier Island, hand drawing by Axel Aucouturier, 2020.Cordyline australis was collected in 1769 by Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Daniel Solander, naturalists on the Endeavour during Lieutenant James Cook's first voyage to the Pacific. It was named Dracaena australis by Georg Forster who published it as entry 151 in his Florulae Insularum Australium Prodromus of 1786. However the name probably predates the settlement of New Zealand — Georg Forster, writing in his Voyage round the World of 1777 about the events of Friday, April 23, 1773, refers on page 114 to the discovery of a related species in Fiordland as "not the true cabbage palm" and says "the central shoot, when quite tender, tastes something like an almond's kernel, with a little of the flavour of cabbage. Hybrids with C. pumilio and C. banksii also occur often where the plants are in close vicinity, because they flower at about the same time and share the chromosome number 2n=38, with C.A quote from Philip Simpson sums up the wide range of habitats the cabbage tree occupied in early New Zealand, and how much its abundance and distinctive form shaped the impression travellers received of the country:."In primeval New Zealand cabbage trees occupied a range of habitats, anywhere open, moist, fertile and warm enough for them to establish and mature: with forest; around the rocky coast; in lowland swamps, around the lakes and along the lower rivers; and perched on isolated rocks.Generally a lowland species, it grows from sea level to about 1,000 metres (3,300 feet), reaching its upper limits on the volcanoes of the central North Island, where eruptions have created open spaces for it to exploit, and in the foothills of the Southern Alps in the South Island, where deforestation may have played a part in giving it room to grow.In the central North Island, it has evolved a much sturdier form (with the Māori name tī manu, meaning "with branches bearing broad, straight upright leaves").This stops the species from growing in sand dunes unless there are wet depressions present, and from hillsides unless there is a seepage area.Early European explorers of New Zealand described "jungles of cabbage trees" along the banks of streams and rivers, in huge swamps and lowland valleys.Few examples of this former abundance survive today—such areas were the first to be cleared by farmers looking for flat land and fertile soil. In modern New Zealand, cabbage trees usually grow as isolated individuals rather than as parts of a healthy ecosystem.The inflorescence and the leaf buds pass the winter protected by the enveloping spike of unopened leaves.Flowering takes place over a period of four to six weeks, giving maximum exposure to pollinating insects.The nectar produced by the flowers contains aromatic compounds, mainly esters and terpenes, which are particularly attractive to moths.Bees use the nectar to produce a light honey to feed their young and increase the size of the hive in the early summer.The strong framework of the inflorescence can easily bear the weight of heavy birds like the New Zealand pigeon, which was formerly the major disperser of the seeds.The seeds are also rich in linoleic acid as a food source for the developing embryo plant, a compound which is also important in the egg-laying cycle of birds.The same oils may also slow down the decay of fallen leaves, so that they build up a dense mat that prevents the seeds of other plants from germinating.Cabbage tree seed also has a store of oil, which means it remains viable for several years.When a bushfire has cleared the land of vegetation, cabbage tree seeds germinate in great numbers to make the most of the light and space opened up by the flames.Aerial rhizomes can also be produced from the trunk if it sustains damage or has become hollow, and grow down into the soil to regenerate the plant.Other common epiphytes include Griselinia lucida, as well as a range of mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi. In South Canterbury, long-tailed bats shelter during the day in the hollow branches, which would once have provided nesting holes for many birds. Māori sometimes planted groves of cabbage trees (pā tī) to attract pigeons which could be snared when they came to eat the berries. Reminiscing in 1903 about life in New Zealand sixty or more years earlier, George Clarke describes how such a tapu grove of cabbage trees would attract huge numbers of pigeons: "About four miles from our house, there was a great preserve of wood pigeons, that was made as tapu as the native chiefs could devise.The leaves and the rough bark provide excellent homes for insects such as caterpillars and moths, small beetles, fly larvae, wētā, snails and slugs.The rough bark also provides opportunities for epiphytes to cling and grow, and lizards hide amongst the dead leaves, coming out to drink the nectar and to eat the insects.Insects, including beetles, moths, wasps and flies, use the bark, leaves and flowers of the tree in various ways. If the leaves are left to decay, the soil underneath cabbage trees becomes a black humus that supports a rich array of amphipods, earthworms and millipedes.There are nine species of insect only found on C. australis, of which the best known is Epiphryne verriculata, the cabbage tree moth, which is perfectly adapted to hide on a dead leaf.Cases of sick and dying trees of C.
australis were first reported in the northern part of the North Island in 1987.The syndrome, eventually called Sudden Decline, soon reached epidemic proportions in Northland and Auckland.For some years, the cause of the disease was unknown, and hypotheses included tree ageing, fungi, viruses, and environmental factors such as an increase in ultra-violet light. Another hypothesis was that a genetic problem may have been induced in Northland and Auckland by the thousands of cabbage trees brought into the area from elsewhere and planted in gardens and parks.In many Northland parks, cabbage trees from the central North Island were growing and flowering within metres of natural forms.The plight of Cordyline australis in the Sudden Decline epidemic drew attention to another widespread threat to the tree in rural areas throughout New Zealand.Cows, sheep, goats, and deer eat the nutritious tissue under the bark of cabbage trees. Other factors thought to contribute to Rural Decline include wood-rotting fungi like Phanerochaete cordylines, micro-organisms which cause saprobic decay and leaf-feeding caterpillars.C. australis, which were much tougher than the fibres of New Zealand flax Morere swings provided a source of amusement for Māori children.In traditional times, Māori had a rich knowledge of the cabbage tree, including spiritual, ecological and many practical aspects of its use.While much of that specialised knowledge was lost after the European settlement of New Zealand, the use of the tree as food and medicine has persisted, and the use of its fibres for weaving is becoming more common.The growing tips or leaf hearts were stripped of leaves and eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable, when they were called kōuka—the origin of the Māori name of the tree. The southern limit of kumara (sweet potato) cultivation was at Banks Peninsula at 43°S, and south of there a culture developed around C. australis.In the early 1840s, Edward Shortland said Māori preferred rhizomes from trees growing in deep rich soil.The sugar in the stems or rhizomes would be partially crystallised, and could be found mixed in a sugary pulp with other matter between the fibres of the root, which were easily separated by tearing them apart.The leaves can be removed, and what remains is like a small artichoke heart that can be steamed, roasted or boiled to make kōuka, a bitter vegetable available at any time of the year.Kōuka is delicious as a relish with fatty foods like eel, muttonbirds, or pigeons, or in modern times, pork, mutton and beef. The leaves were used for making anchor ropes and fishing lines, cooking mats, baskets, sandals and leggings for protection when travelling in the South Island high country, home of the prickly speargrasses (Aciphylla) and tūmatakuru or matagouri (Discaria toumatou).The Māori used various parts of Cordyline australis to treat injuries and illnesses, either boiled up into a drink or pounded into a paste.The last name is due to its extensive use in Torbay, it being the official symbol of that area, used in tourist posters promoting South Devon as the English Riviera.Although it was recorded by the early naturalists, botanists only rediscovered it in the 1990s, being grown by gardeners as the cultivar Cordyline 'Thomas Kirk'.Cordyline 'Ti Tawhiti' was "the subject of an intense discussion amongst the leading botanists of New Zealand at a meeting of the Royal Society ... in Wellington 100 years ago.It was saved from extinction because its dwarf form found favour with gardeners and it came to be known as Cordyline 'Kirkii' recording the interest Thomas Kirk had in the plant. Like other Cordyline species, C.
australis can produce sports which have very attractive colouration, including pink stripes and leaves in various shades of green, yellow or red.An early cultivar was published in France and England in 1870: Cordyline australis 'Lentiginosa' was described as having tinted leaves with brownish red spots.New Plymouth plant breeders Duncan and Davies included hybrids of C. australis and C.
banksii in their 1925 catalogue, and have produced many new cultivars since.In cultivation in the United Kingdom, the following have received the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:-.Barry L. Frankhauser, an archaeologist and anthropologist, whose Ph.D.
thesis (published 1986) was a study of historical uses of the cabbage tree. .
Why are the cabbage trees dying?
It was spring, 1987, when officials from Rodney County Council turned up at the door of DSIR Plant Protection’s laboratories in Mt Albert, Auckland, with a dead cabbage tree trunk—and a problem.Five years later, “sudden decline,” as the syndrome has become known, is continuing to kill off thousands of cabbage trees across the top two-thirds of the North Island.The original query from Rodney County, a mixed farming/lifestyle block district just north of urban Auckland, had been sparked off by growing complaints from ratepayers that the spraying of herbicides along road edges by the council had been killing their cabbage trees.“They’d only brought us the trunk, and in cases like this, where the leaves suddenly turn yellow, wilt and fall off, it is often a root disease that is involved,” said Dr Beaver.For some weeks he’d been “sort of vaguely watching” the collapse of a cabbage tree in a suburban garden, on the slopes of nearby Mt Albert.It also provides the cabbage tree’s generic name: Cordyline is derived from the Greek kordyle, or club—a reference to the shape of the rhizome.Just as, above ground, the cabbage tree is capable of producing a leafy shoot at the site of each leaf axil (and will do so in response to physical damage as slight as a cat’s scratching), so underground on the rhizome there are thousands of buds, each with the potential to sprout forth as a new trunk.“For some months a fire was kept alight continuously,” write Laing and Blackwell in Plants of New Zealand, “until the stems were burned through, and only parts of the outside bark left.In another instance felled cabbage trees lay on a beach for eight months “rolling up and down in the salt tide, or baking high and dry in the sun” before being returned to a paddock.Cordyline indivisa, the broad-leafed or mountain cabbage tree (ti kapu or toii), is found from South Auckland to Fiordland, in wet areas from 450m to 1350m above sea level, usually in well lit forest clearings.Over the past decade there have been further attempts to refine “lily” classification, and cabbage trees have been placed in the family Asphodelaceae (which includes the asphodels of Europe).Throughout the Pacific, one species of ti (Cordyline fruticosa) had been cropped and cultivated for the strength of its leaves as cordage, for its medicinal properties and, especially, for food.Recent research has proved scientifically what the ancient Polynesians well knew: the young stem and the rhizome contain carbohydrates which exceed cane sugar in sweetness.Whether C. fruticosa is native to these islands or was introduced is a matter of some debate, but there is little argument that the early Polynesian voyagers to New Zealand brought this important crop with them, along with kumara, taro, hue (the gourd) and aute (paper mulberry).The arrival of European traders, with their sweets and crystallised sugar, led to a rapid abandonment by northern Maori of their ti pore plantations, with the result that the plant, unable to seed in New Zealand, died out.To propagate ti pore “the usual plan was to cut off and replant the stalk with a small portion of root attached, in the same manner as is done with taro.” Advantage was also taken of “offsets which often spring up at the foot of old stocks .“The substance then presented the appearance of a glutinous mass, and the taste is described as of a sugary sweetness far beyond that of the ti rauriki [the dwarf cabbage tree] but, like that root, with a slightly bitter after flavour.”.“In fact, the Maori say that in the old times the chewing of a piece of prepared root when one had nothing else to do, gave the same satisfaction as is now afforded by a pipe and tobacco.”.One use for ti, seemingly undiscovered by the Maori, was its use as a base for alcohol—an application which T. F. Cheeseman, curator of the Auckland Museum, noted in 1900 had not escaped the attention of the Sandwich Islanders (Hawaiians).Reverend Richard Taylor, who arrived in the Bay of Islands in 1839, was later to note, after observing that the cooked rhizomes had a “bitter sweet taste”, that “the early missionaries brewed excellent beer from them.”.The indigenous varieties of ti were also adopted as an important food source by the Maori—especially C.
australis, C. pumilio and a mysterious plant which was cultivated in Hawkes Bay, the Waikato,Taranaki and Whanganui.Writing in 1880, explorer-botanist William Colenso noted that ti para was then so rare, the only specimens he knew were in his own garden “raised from a single plant I found in an old Maori cultivation .“Thirty years ago, whenever some of the oldest chiefs here should happen to see the plant growing in my garden, they would invariably longingly beg for its stems to cook for a meal, saying how much they liked it.”.Recent research by DSIR Botany Institute’s Peter Heenan and Warwick Harris indicates that this plant has not been lost, but has been sold for many years in the nursery trade under the name Cordyline kirkii.Trading fish, potatoes, grain and flax for bags of sugar was a much simpler way of gaining sweet carbohydrates than farming ti trees through a three-or four-year cropping cycle.Cultivation methods varied from the intensive farming of C. fruticosa in sheltered spots in the north to the more informal cropping of natural and planted plantations of the common C.
australis.In South Canterbury and Otago, the remains of many huge cabbage tree cooking ovens, umu ti, have been discovered.University of Otago chemist Donald Brasch and anthropologist Barry Fankhauser have pinpointed scientifically what Brunner and the ancient Polynesians discovered by experimentation.The common cabbage tree is a rich source of carbohydrate which could be used for the preparation of fructose syrup, an excellent sweetening agent now widely used in the food processing industry.Simpson explains the process by which the rhizome forms: “When the seed germinates into a tiny seedling, a bud in the axil of one of the first leaves grows out and straight down.”.Underground, it adapts to its special roles: to act as the plant’s water and food storage chamber, to anchor the tree and to provide a continuous new surface for the roots that radiate out in great numbers.Simpson says that while general observation puts the cabbage tree’s natural habitat as lowland wetlands and forest margins, human intervention by both Maori and pakeha over several centuries makes it difficult to pin down its precise distribution.The newly cleared land initially proved excellent for cabbage tree colonisation, but once livestock was introduced, regeneration ceased.Most of the cabbage trees are out in the hills on farms, where they’re geriatric, or in urban centres where they have to put up with other stresses such as soil and water problems and the urban population explosions of insect pests.Simpson takes the line further south, and remembers driving up from Wellington and reaching Norsewood on the edge of the Hawkes Bay plains, “and whammo, it suddenly becomes a major feature of the landscape—most of the cabbage trees are dead.”.Rather, he suggests, it could be the natural response of a distressed tree to put all its resources into a mass flowering in a last desperate endeavour to reproduce before death.After visiting more than 700 sites, Hosking, while concerned by evidence of sudden decline, also expresses alarm “that pastoral farming is really eliminating cabbage trees from a large part of the country.Many farmers, when made aware of the general attrition of the cabbage tree population, have agreed to help, often by fencing their best stands to allow natural regeneration.Where areas are low in cabbage trees, DOC is encouraging the propagation and replanting of local offspring—plants which, by virtue of adaptation, should have the best chance of survival in each particular location.made us one delightful meal.” The commonly held belief, still referred to by some historians, that explorers and settlers tucked into meals of boiled ti leaves as a cabbage substitute is based on confusion surrounding the name “cabbage tree.” Amateur botanist James Beever has delved back through the library shelves to uncover how the misnomer arose.By 1863, it seems the latter usage had spread to polite society too, with author Samuel Butler, in a letter back to England, using “cabbage tree” and “ti palm” interchangeably.In his book Native Edible Plants of New Zealand, Andrew Crowe presents ti recipes published by Maori Women’s Welfare League in 1977, including the cooking of cabbage tree centres with puwha and corned beef or pork, the preparation of ti salad (“slice the ti core very finely and garnish with French dressing”) and the making of Te Whanake Sauce: “clean and slice finely one cabbage tree heart, boil with three cups of water and simmer till tender. .
Tropical Gardening: Impressions of New Zealand's subtropical North
Culturally, the European presence combined with the Polynesian Maori has created a society somewhat similar to Hawaii at least superficially.How ever it is expressed, we were constantly aware of the warm and friendly manner of New Zealanders that reflected our concept of aloha.The obvious differences when it comes to New Zealand parks, gardens and roadsides is that there was little or no litter, no homeless folks and towns whether they be little or big were spotlessly clean.The northern part of North Island is as close to tropical as it gets, but too cool to grow coconut palms.New Zealand’s mild climate is ideal for roses and since it is early fall while we have our spring in the Northern hemisphere, we saw them in full glory.Insect pests that may harm the bushes will include aphids, thrips, cottony-cushion scale, red spider mites, and assorted night feeding rose beetles.The requirements also include regular grooming or removing unwanted or unsightly parts from rose plants to improve their growth and appearance.Preventing fruit development is one of the reasons for grooming the rose plant after each main period of flowering.If left on the plant, the base to which the petals are attached will usually enlarge, forming a small apple like fruit called a rose hip.At the same time that spent flowers are being removed, the bush should be inspected for the presence of any dead wood that can serve as a reservoir for parasitic organisms that cause dieback of rose canes.Grooming, pest control and fertilization are time consuming practices, but your plants will respond by giving you loads of flowers in return. .