Phormium tenax

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Phormium tenax
A tui bird on a stalk of P. tenax flowers.
Scientific classification
Binomial name
Phormium tenax
Phormium tenax

Phormium tenax (harakeke in Māori, New Zealand flax) is an evergreen perennial plant from New Zealand and Norfolk Island. It is an important fibre plant and also a popular garden plant.[1]

The plant grows as a clump of long, straplike leaves up to two meters long. It grows a much taller flowering shoot, with dramatic yellow or red flowers.[1]

The fibre from the plant was used by the Māori of New Zealand to make baskets. It was also used in rope and sail making.[2] after the arrival of Europeans up until at least WWII

In other countries Phormium tenax is an invasive species. On Saint Helena it is taking over the land from the critically endangered species Elaphoglossum dimorphum.[3]

Ecology[change | change source]

The jumping spider Trite planiceps lives in the rolled-up leaves of this species. Phormium tenax grows on the coast where it is important in the breeding habitat for the endangered Yellow-eyed Penguin.[4]

Cultivars[change | change source]

Several forms of this species have been selected for cultivation as decorative garden plants including:[5] The Royal Horticultural Society in England gave an Award of Garden Merit to the plant.[6]

  • 'Bronze Baby' - arching bronze leaves, 2-to-3-foot (0.61 to 0.91 m) plant.
  • 'Dazzler' - arching leaves that are bronze-maroon with red and pink stripes, plant reaches 3 feet in height.
  • 'Sundowner' - 6-foot-tall (1.8 m) plant, leaves are striped with bronze, green and rose-pink.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Roger Holmes and Lance Walheim. 2005. California Home Landscaping, Creative Homeowner Press ISBN 9781580112543
  2. "Our Flax for the Navy - NZETC".
  3. "Ecology of Phormium tenax". 2011. Archived from the original on 30 November 2011. Retrieved 27 August 2011. Elaphoglossum dimorphum
  4. C. Michael Hogan 2009. Yellow-eyed Penguin: Megadypes antipodes,, ed. N. Stromberg Archived 2011-10-05 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Frances Tenenbaum. 2003. Taylor's Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0618226443
  6. "New Zealand flax". 2011. Retrieved 27 August 2011.

Further reading[change | change source]

  • James Hector 1889. Phormium tenax as a fibrous plant. 2nd ed, Geological Survey Dept, New Zealand. G. Didsbury, Government Printer, 95 pages.