Cordyline banksii - The Forest Cabbage Tree

(page 2)

The flower panicles of C. banksii are longer and looser than those of C. australis at least a metre long, and arch out and down among the leaves. The flowers are fewer and longer than those of C. australis, and with the same sort of sweet fragrance. In much of the top half of New Zealand's North Island, at least, C. banksii is a rather straggly and sparse little thing, with a few long narrow leaves on a slender stem that quite often leans one way. The upper end of the Kauaeranga Valley at the base of the Coromandel Peninsula has its own, more impressive form however, which has blades up to 10 or 11cm wide. Here, C. australis is exclusively a coastal and lowland species, while C. banksii ranges from the foothills to just below the peaks of the Coromandel Ranges, to 930m. Also unlike the other New Zealand species, C. banksii has a wide light level tolerance, and can be found fully under the shade of Leptospermum trees, or in full sun in waist-high subalpine scrub. A common place to find it is leaning out from steep rocky banks where roads and tracks cut though hilly bush; here all the leaves swing round and hang the same way, out to the sun.

The trunk habit varies drastically with the position the plants are growing in, as well as from genetic influences. The plants in the top photo have single 5m trunks. Some others are multi-stemmed from the base. Some stay unbranched while flowering, but most branch, particularly in full sun. At the highest altitudes on the mountains fringing the Kauaeranga valley they are nearly stemless, resembling the Phormium cookianum they grow in association with there.

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