Today’s entry was authored by Alexis:
Thank you to Tony Foster (Tonyfoster@Flickr) from the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool (image) and Kahuroa at Wikimedia Commons (image) for their photographs of today’s species. Cordyline australis produces sweet-scented white flowers that bloom in October to December in the southern hemisphere. The flowers attract flies, which carry out pollination.
This species, also known as cabbage tree, is endemic to New Zealand. It is a common tree in New Zealand, found in a variety of habitats like “swamps, sand dunes, coastal scrub and forest margins, river banks and dry hillsides” (Newhook’s Our Trees: A New Zealand Guide (1982)). It grows up to about 20m tall. Parts of the tree can be eaten and are rich in carbohydrates. Historically, Maoris made a porridge-type food out of the sun-dried pith and roots of young trees, and also used the trees as sources of fibre and medicine. Early European settlers found uses for Cordyline australis as well; they fashioned chimneys from the hollowed out trunks, which are fire-resistant, and made beer from the roots.
In 1987, Cordyline australis individuals of the North Island of New Zealand fell victim to a mysterious disease that caused sudden wilting, the falling off of leaves, and death within 3 to 12 months. This condition, simply known as “sudden decline“, was later discovered to be caused by a phytoplasma parasite transmitted via an introduced sap-sucking insect.