Native plant both sturdy and adaptable

NATURAL WORLD

PAUL GAY
Last updated 08:30 06/02/2014
Southland Times photo
Even in extreme wind, the native cabbage plant will not bend.
Southland Times photo
Even in extreme wind, the native cabbage plant will not bend.

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Early settlers in New Zealand used the young fresh leaves of this native plant as a substitute for cabbage, hence the common name cabbage tree.

The cabbage tree is one of the most distinctive specimens in our landscape. It grows straight and tall and in extreme windy conditions does not bend over as do other trees. It's also very adaptable with regard to soil conditions. It can live in wet swampy habitats and is able to thrive in hot, dry sand hills.

Young cabbage trees grow up as a single trunk until the first flowering. Following this the cabbage tree often branches and several heads form.

Flowers develop on these heads and there is a common belief that a good flowering will be followed by a hot dry summer. Scientific observations however, demonstrate that this is not necessarily the case as a good flowering usually follows a hot dry summer and is not a reliable indication of the weather to come.

Most cabbage trees mature at about 7 to 10 metres but it's recorded that in the Golden Bay area there is a specimen that's approaching 20m and is at least 400 years old.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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