Astelia latifolia Jacques
Astelia richardii Endl.
Astelia sericea Banks & Sol. ex Hook.f.
Common Name: Kowharawhara
Astelia banksii is a clump-forming evergreen perennial plant, spreading by short, thick rhizomes; it produces rosettes of sword-shaped leaves around 100 - 250cm long and 30 - 45mm wide, with flowering stems up to 100cm long[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and source of materials. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental.
New Zealand - North Island
Coastal habitats, or occasionally on inland cliffs exposed to winds off the sea[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Astelia banksii is found in coastal regions of northern New Zealand, where it experiences mild, moist winters and moist summers. It does experience frosts and can tolerate occasional, short-lived temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c, perhaps even lower if given shelter from cold drying winds[
Species in this genus generally require a damp humus-rich fertile soil in sun or semi-shade, sheltered from cold drying winds[
]. This is a coastal species, and so should be tolerant of moist, often strong and salt-laden maritime winds[
A dioecious species - both male and female forms must be grown if fruit and seed are required.
Fruit - raw. A sweet flavour with a viscid consistency[
]. The fruit is like a small red currant with a small black seed in it. It is produced in bunches. The handsome, deep purple fruit is much eaten by the Maori[
]. The fruit is around 8mm × 6.5 mm., opaque, bright green, then whitish, most or all of surface becoming flushed with magenta on ripening[
The plant, in combination with several other species, is used in plaiting baskets to give different hues[
]. The long, slender leaves of this species are used, but not frequently[
The plant is used by forest travellers as temporary baskets for food, or as mats to cover the food in a hangi[
The leaves are rich in fibre that is suitable for ropes, making paper etc. The fibre is of a dirty yellow colour, the filaments exceedingly coarse and wiry, rather brittle when bent sharply, but of considerable strength when tested with a lateral strain[
It affords a material superior to Phormium tenax for the manufacture of paper'[
The shaggy leaf-bases of this and other species in the genus are said to have been made into mantles by the Maoris[
]. In softness their silky covering rivals the finest swan down[
Seed - sow late winter in a greenhouse. Germination can be very slow, sometimes taking more than 12 months.
When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade for at least the first winter in a greenhouse. Plant out in late spring or early summer once they are 15cm or more tall.
Division in spring[