T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Astelia fragrans (Bush lily)

Kingdom: Plantae
(Unranked): Angiosperms
(Unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asteliaceae
Genus: Astelia (Astelia means a plant without a stem.)
Species: A. fragrans
Scientific name: Astelia fragrans
Common names: Bush lily, Tufted lily, Bush flax, Kakaha

Astelia fragrans is a New Zealand native and is one of the most common species of Astelia growing in scrub and forest throughout New Zealand. It forms large dense clumps on the forest floor giving our native bush rather a tropical appearance. It is found from sea level to about 900m and will grow to 1m x 1m.
It has attractive broad sword-like green leaves (up to 2m long), stiffly arched and the midribs are often reddish. The underside can be silvery caused by tiny scales. They store water in the base of their leaves so tend to be unaffected by summer droughts.
The flowers appear in October to November and consist of many panicles, similar to the cabbage-tree, with small green highly fragrant flowers. The flowers are in the centre of the tuft. In summer the female flowers develop into yellow-orange fruit, looking like sweet corn, which are enjoyed by the birds. 
The Astelia species was used by the Maori with harakeke, kiekie, pingao in the plaiting baskets to give them different hues.

Photographed at Otari Native Botanic Garden and Wilton's Bush Reserve. Wellington.  


Photographed on Mt Egmont/Taranaki.


Photographed on Westcoast roadside.

Astelia fragrans growing on a coastal cliff South Westland.