Cabbage trees (Cordyline australis) are giant tree lilies belonging to the plant family Laxmanniaceae. Standing in farm paddocks, surrounded by fields of pasture, they are one of the most familiar sights of the New Zealand countryside. Such isolated trees are the first- or second-generation survivors of former forest cover. Originally cabbage trees grew in swamp forest, along river terraces, and on damp hillsides. They have been widely planted throughout New Zealand and overseas, and many varieties have been cultivated.
Cabbage trees grow to 20 metres in height and develop a massive trunk up to 1 metre in diameter. This branches after each flowering and over time develops a wide crown of long tufted leaves. Each spring it produces a large spray of sweet-smelling flowers.
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Photograph by Jeremy Rolfe
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