||Cabbage Tree, Ti Kouka
||From Greek kordyle meaning club, referring to its large underground rhizomes.
Imagine the picture postcard scene of dairy cows grazing on a rolling green meadow, dotted with large cabbage trees, with Mount Taranaki in the background.
There is no doubt it is New Zealand.
Now, imagine this scene without the cabbage trees, and it can very well be Japan!
The cabbage tree is an icon of New Zealand.
It makes our country side distinctive.
A very versatile tree, it grows everywhere from stream banks to hill tops.
Over time a cabbage tree can grow quite large.
There are stories of abodes built into hollowed out trunks.
New trunks will grow around the original, especially if it was damaged.
After many years, these grow to become a large clump of cabbage trees.
The fragrant white flowers appear in mid to late Spring, followed by small green fruits that ripen to white / blue in the Autumn.
Birds love the fruit.
A cabbage tree seedling will typically grow unbranched until it flowers, about 4-6 years from germination.
As a result, most trees have a 2-3 metre unbranched trunk that supports the tree.
In young trees, this make it look a bit like a palm and in some circles cabbage trees are known as cabbage palm.
This is a misnomer as it is not a palm and neither does it grow cabbages.
The Maori had a variety of uses for the tree.
For example, fibres were extracted and the trunks processed for sugars.
One method of bird hunting was to set traps that catch the birds that went to feed on cabbage tree fruits.
The name "cabbage tree" was given by settlers who cooked and ate the young stem and inner leaves at the crown.