Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Favoured Tree

Small Cabbage Tree in Flower. Arts Centre, Christchurch. Nov. 2009 Ajr
Ti Kouka = Cabbage Tree
(From the Cordyline family)
The cabbage tree has always had a favoured place in traditional Maori life. Its leaves are tough – much tougher than flax – and they were dried and used to make bird snares, roof thatching and sandals for the feet. The root, the pith of the trunk and the sweet sap are all edible and because of their prolific distribution, the trees provided a ready and abundant food source. It is still said that if the cabbage trees flower early in spring, we’re in for a long, hot, dry summer. The cabbage tree is also incredibly hardy and resilient and if you cut it back – even severely – it sprouts vigorous new growth. (This is just happened to the large cabbage tree in my garden. It was recently topped quite harshly because it was interfering with power lines and already, just a few months on, it has several lush new bunches of leaves). This capacity to regenerate is referred to in the old Maori proverb: “Ka whiti te ti, ka wana te ti, ka rito te ti – When a cabbage tree is broken it shoots up, and grows a new head of leaves.”

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