Sixth in a series featuring photographs and writings from other staff and researchers at UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research. Again, an image by David Tarrant from a November venture to New Zealand. – Daniel
For this plant, David noted: “This photograph was taken in an outstanding new bed on the north slope of the Larnach Castle grounds. Larnach Castle is located on the Otago Peninsula of New Zealand’s South Island.”
There are thirty-nine or so species in the genus Aciphylla, and from this image alone it is impossible to be certain of its identity. Douglas Justice and David have tentatively identified it as Aciphylla squarrosa, one of the most common species in cultivation.
Common names for Aciphylla squarrosa include taramea, speargrass, and my favourite, common Spaniard. To understand the latter, you’ll need to recall that when these plants were first learned of by European explorers, the Spanish were associated with swords. The resemblance of the sharp, long leaves and bracts to the Spanish weapons doesn’t require too much lateral thinking.
Plants for a Future Database’s entry on Aciphylla squarrosa includes references that suggest the cooked root is edible – perhaps not surprising, as it is related to carrots and parsnips. Using other plants in a family as a guide to determine potential edibility is not advised, though. After all, all three are also related to the deadly poison hemlock.
Photography resource link: There is much to like about the work of Daniella T. from California – I particularly like the images from Joshua Tree National Park and Sequoia National Park in Winter.