Dracophyllum longifolium (Inaka)
Species: Dracophyllum longifolium
Common names: Inaka, Grass tree, Iinanga
Etymology: Dracophyllum: dragon leaf, from its likeness to the dragon tree of the Canary Islands. longifolium: long leaved.
There are variations within the species and it also hybridises with other Dracophyllum species e.g. Dracophyllum longifolium var. filifolium growing on Mt Egmont/Taranaki.
D. longifolium is widespread through out New Zealand, found from sea level up to 1200 m, in subalpine regions, from the middle of the North Island to as far south as the Auckland Islands. It is more common in the higher rainfall regions of the South and Stewart Islands.
D. longifolium is a long-lived plant, up to 220 years. Its longevity combined with its ability to layer means that D. longifolium may persist indefinitely once established, even without further seedling regeneration, at least until further disturbance creates new bare ground.
D. longifolium occurs in open forests and near the tree-line, and is often an important part of subalpine scrub and, sometimes, in mixed snow tussock-scrub. The shrubby D. longifolium grows without a distinct trunk, and with narrow angled slender branches. On steep slopes the main stem is often leaning or horizontal, and branches may take root where they contact the ground, a process called layering. This can lead to extensive patches, all belonging to one genetic individual.
It is an erect shrub or small tree up to 11 m tall, but usually about 1-1.5 m in the alpine zone. Bark dark grey to blackish. Branches are slender and the branches are conspicuously marked by rings left by cast leaves.
The pale green or bronze leaves are usually stiff and narrow (3–5 mm wide, but up to twice as wide in young plants) but usually at least 8 cm, and as much as 25 cm long and tapering to a drawn-out, pointed tip. The leaves are crowded towards the tips of the branchless. As in all dracophyllums the base of the leaf has a broadened sheath (about 15 mm long in Dracophyllum longifolium) that encircles the stem.
Up to 15 small white tubular flowers (7-8 mm long) are borne in clusters on short stalks held just behind the tufts of leaves.
Fruits are small dry capsules that release minute (20,000 seeds/gram) dry seeds.
Dracophyllum longifolium var. filifolium photographed Mt Egmont/Taranaki
A young shrub
A shrub with bronze leaves Photographed Mt Taranaki Stratford side plateau
The photographs below were taken at Te Kainga Marire Gardens Spencer Place