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


Astelia hastata (Perching lily)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asteliaceae
Genus: Astelia
Species: A. hastata
Binominal name: Astelia hastata
Synonym: Collospermum hastatum
Common name: Perching lily ,Kahakaha ,Widow Maker, Tank lily

The Astelia hastata is one of the largest and most magnificent of the nest epiphytes. It is a tall clump forming plant with bright green arching flax-like leaves (0.6 > 1.7 m long and 3 > 7 cm wide). It is a robust, tufted epiphyte, often growing in large colonist in forest tree branches. It is well adapted to life in the tree tops. Its long, erect, somewhat fleshy V-shaped leaves are ridged to channel the water into the leafy reservoir where it's held until needed during dry spells.
The perching lily is dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants). It develops an inflorescence of flowers January to March and its fruits from March to August. The fruits turn red and contain black seeds.
One of New Zealand's species of mosquitoes breeds exclusively in this small reservoir of water. The V shaped leaves have a distinctive black base. It is found in coastal and lowland forests throughout the North Island and upper South Island. The flower spikes are pale yellow and the fruit of the female plant is red. It is slow growing. It was named the "Widow maker" by the early New Zealand bushman because of it falling on them when they were cutting down the native trees that hosted them.
Astelia hastata is an important source of food of the rare lesser short-tailed bat and 
native birds.

Early Maoris use:  Women used the snowy white downy fibres from the underside of the leaves to ornament their heads and hair (Colenso 1869a). 
Eels cooked in small baskets woven of mauri or kohaha [sic] leaves (tapora process) (Best 1903). 
Leaves used to make shallow baskets for hīnau meal, lined with hound's tooth fern. Leaves woven into fillets and worn by girls (Best 1942). 
An epiphytic plant used for making snow sandals (Williams 1971)

Astelia hastata on a tree. Photogaphed at the end of Smith road in The Te Henui Valley


The Collospermum hastatum panicle 

Closeup of the tip of the inflorescence







The yellow unripe fruit turning red when ripe.


Topside of a leaf


under surface of a leaf