Cabbage Tree

Botanical name: Cordyline australis

Maori name: Ti kouka means ‘tongues of chattering women’

Habitat: They grow all over the country, but prefer wet, open areas like swamps and scrubland in the North and South Islands.

Appearance: Cabbage trees have long narrow green leaves that may be up to a meter long. It produces berries that birds like to eat. It can be as tall as 12 – 20 meters.

Use: Māori used cabbage trees as a food, fibre and medicine. The root, stem and top are all edible, and are a good source of sugar. Early settlers used the young leaves from the center of these heads as a substitute for cabbage. The bark of a cabbage tree is so fireproof that settlers used it as part of their chimneys.

Threats: Although widespread and abundant, cabbage tree populations have been decimated in some parts of New Zealand due to disease. In some areas, particularly in the north, no big trees are left. This is why it is important to keep planting cabbage trees.


  • What does the Maori name for cabbage tree mean?
  • Where do cabbage tree like to live?
  • Why is it important to keep planting cabbage trees?

More information can be found here:

We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Alana and Jaevan to this research.