Unusual Trees to Look Out for (7)

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Cordyline australis, Cabbage Palm 178/43 

 Meaning: Club-like (roots), southern

 A native of New Zealand, where it’s usually called Ti rakau or Ti kouka in the Maori language.  It can grow up to 15 m, starting on a single stem, but later branching after flowering into several more, each branch producing a flowering stem.  It is a monocoyledon, and each stem grows from a single central bud.

 The tree has a high carbohydrate content and was long used as a food source by the Maori.  The sword-shaped leaves, the trunk and the root material were also valuable sources of fibre for making into clothing and footwear.  The juice of the tree has antibacterial properties, and the tree is said to be a potential source of ethanol.

 It is widely planted as an ornamental tree, particularly because it tolerates cold weather well; this has earned it other names like “Torbay Palm” and “Manx Palm”.  The subspecies atropupurea and other colour variants are much in demand for gardens.  Incidentally, and just to confuse us, the name “Cabbage Palm” is also used to refer to some other species, such as the palmettos.

 The local trees of this species have taken a bit of a beating in this year’s snows, unfortunately.  This photo, however, shows the tree in New Zealand:


Curator of Mineralogy – Dr. David Green’s palm, grown from seed, winter 2009-10, Manchester


Unfortunately, since 1987, the Cordylines in New Zealand have been affected by a pathogen, Phytoplasma australiense, and suffer from a disease called “Sudden Decline”.  It usually causes almost total defoliation in between 2 and 12 months.

 C. atropupurea after the 2009-2010 snows in Manchester…


…and another, C. australis.


Grindon Herbarium sheet from C. australis.

 -Daniel King

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