Cordyline pumilio (Dwarf cabbage tree)
Species: C. pumilio
Binomial name: Cordyline pumilio
Common names: Dwarf cabbage tree, Ti koraha, Ti rauriki, Pygmy cabbage tree.
Cordyline pumilio is the smallest of New Zealand's five native species of Cordyline. The species name pumilio is Latin for "dwarf". It is a narrow-leaved monocot shrub endemic to the North Island from Te Paki (North Cape) to Kawhia Harbour in the west and Bay of Plenty in the East. Its natural habitat is coastal to montane light forests especially along ridgelines and around slip scars.
It usually grows up to 1 metre tall, although rare examples of 2 metres tall have been reported. It has with long narrow leaves and can easily be mistaken for a grass or sedge. A flower spike or panicle appears in November or December.
It was used by the Maori who cultivated by Maori in the Waikato district and elsewhere all over New Zealand. It was grown for its sugar-laden roots and stems which were used as a relish to sweeten less palatable foods. Young seedlings were carefully selected and planted out, and after perhaps three years the roots were dug up, stacked in small piles, and dried in the sun. As they dried, the fibrous roots were burned off, and then the roots were scraped and baked slowly in a hangi, requiring twelve to eighteen hours to cook. The cooked roots were chewed, or pounded and washed and squeezed to extract the sugar, which was eaten with fern root as a relish.
Photographed late December at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth.