Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Orokonui

with 19 comments

A year ago today we spent several hours at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary north of Dunedin. At the entrance we gazed upon the broad and healthily handsome cabbage tree (Cordyline australis) shown below. In the foreground you see a stand of the ubiquitous plant known as flax in New Zealand English, harakeke in Māori, and Phormium tenax in botanese.

Among the kinds of native plants inside the reserve we saw one with clusters of white flowers. It turned out to be Ozothamnus vauvilliersii, known as tauhinu and mountain cottonwood.

Tauhinu belongs to a tribe of the sunflower family that I don’t remember having heard of, Gnaphaleae, though I see now that the tribe includes a genus that’s common in Austin. One clue that mountain cottonwood is in the sunflower family is the way its seed heads turn fluffy as they age:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 27, 2018 at 4:42 AM

19 Responses

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  1. Quite incredible the gifts nature bestows, Steve. 🙂 🙂


    February 27, 2018 at 11:24 AM

    • Yes, and the reserve held many more of those natural gifts than what’s shown in today’s post.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 27, 2018 at 5:49 PM

  2. Those cabbage palms are all over Cornwall (my neighbour has one) and the flax. I must look out for the tauhinu, it looks very pretty.


    February 27, 2018 at 6:21 PM

  3. The base of the cabbage tree reminds me of the plant we call Spanish dagger. When I read the linked page, there was a reference to its sword-like leaves, so the similarity is there: at least visually.

    The buds of the tauhinu are terrific. At that stage, the plant seems perfectly proportioned and elegant, with the stems, leaves, and buds fitting together in just the right way. If I lived where I could grow that one, I would.


    February 27, 2018 at 11:12 PM

    • I see that Spanish dagger, Yucca treculeana, is in the agave family, whereas the cabbage tree is in the recently expanded Asparagaceae. Based on appearances, the cabbage tree is often misleadingly called a cabbage palm, but true palms comprise the Arecaceae.

      Well, your desire to grow tauhinu means you’ll just have to move to New Zealand.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 28, 2018 at 9:36 AM

  4. I looked up the cabbage tree and the USDA has it as having naturalized in California. I thought it would be in Florida but it obviously preferred the drier side of U.S.. Florida may be way too humid for some of these New Zealand plants. How did it get to California, don’t ask.


    February 27, 2018 at 11:59 PM

    • I think the cabbage tree appealed to landscapers in California, who must have imported it. Why it didn’t also appeal to landscapers and gardeners in Florida, I don’t know, but you may well be right that Florida is too tropical for the plant to do well there. The northernmost part of New Zealand is the warmest, but it’s still far from being tropical.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 28, 2018 at 9:39 AM

  5. I never would have seen that those are composite flowers. I would not have guessed that the coyote brush is either, just because one must look closely, and I just do not look that closely at coyote brush.


    February 28, 2018 at 3:37 PM

    • When we visited the Martinez Regional Shoreline in 2016 I saw a bush that I knew immediately had to be some sort of Baccharis, based on its similarity to the Baccharis neglecta that’s so common in Austin:


      I asked someone who happened to be passing by in California, and she told me it was coyote brush, which I later looked up and confirmed that it was indeed a Baccharis, B. pilularis:


      Steve Schwartzman

      February 28, 2018 at 4:55 PM

      • Yes. It is even more common on the coast, but is not much to look at. I cleared it from my Pa’s back yard in Montara. It is quite combustible. The low growing species works nicely as a groundcoer in large scale landscapes, but does not last very long.


        February 28, 2018 at 4:59 PM

        • Fortunately we saw the coyote brush at the stage where it had turned fluffy. That’s the stage I always look forward to in the fall with our local species, Baccharis neglecta.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 1, 2018 at 9:28 AM

          • Really? I do not think of that as an appealing feature, at least on ours. It looks all fluffy and shabby, like cottonwoods dropped their fluff on it.


            March 1, 2018 at 5:10 PM

            • Well, I like the fluff, but I hadn’t thought about the possibility that not everyone else likes it. Each to his own taste.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 1, 2018 at 6:20 PM

              • It might be appealing on your local species. I just do not think that it looks like much on ours. We also have the Cortaderia jubata, which is not very pretty relative to the Cortaderia selloana. They are closely related, but one is quite pretty while the other is acquired taste.


                March 1, 2018 at 7:03 PM

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