Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for March 17th, 2015

Cabbage tree

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Cabbage Tree by Pond 7514

Looking to a foreigner—especially from a distance—like a palm tree, the cabbage tree, which the Māori call tī kōuka,* is not a palm. No, botanists place Cordyline australis in the recently aggrandized family Asparagaceae, whose Agavoideae subfamily includes the yucca familiar to Texans. If you’d like to know more about the cabbage tree, which is among the most distinctive plants in New Zealand, read on. Notice also the cattail, or raupō, Typha orientalis, toward the lower left.

I photographed this cabbage tree on February 25th a little northeast of Rotorua on New Zealand’s North Island.

UPDATE. I should have explained the familiar name. In the words of T.E.R.R.A.I.N.: “The crown is made up of long, bare branches carrying bushy heads of large, grass like leaves up to a meter long. Early settlers used the young leaves from the centre of these heads as a substitute for cabbage – hence the common name.”


* A bar (technically called a macron) over a vowel indicates that the vowel is to be pronounced for a longer time than regular vowels. Many languages (but not English) make a distinction between long vowels and regular vowels, so that would be a different word from pa and have a different meaning.

Also like many languages, Māori has five vowels, whose pronunciations I’ll spell out as we might write them in English: a (ah), e (eh), i (ee), o (oh), u (oo). In effect, Māori has the same five vowels as Spanish.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 17, 2015 at 6:03 AM

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