Herb: Wharariki


Latin name: Phormium cookianum


Synonyms: Phormium colensoi, Phormium hookeri


Family: Agavaceae (Century-plant Family)



Edible parts of Wharariki:

The roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute. An edible nectar is obtained from the flowers. An edible gum is obtained from the base of the leaves.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Evergreen
Perennial

Height:
120 cm
(4 feet)

Flowering:
July to
August

Habitat of the herb:

Coastal cliffs to mountain slopes, locally dominant on shady faces in high country, North, South and Stewart Islands.

Other uses of Wharariki:

A high quality pliable fibre is obtained from the leaves. A gum found at the base of the leaves is used as a paper glue.

Propagation of the herb:

The seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Sow stored seed in February in a cold frame. Germination is sometimes poor but should take place in 1 - 6 months at 15C. The seedlings are very variable. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seed remains viable for about 12 months in normal storage. Division in spring as growth commences. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.

Cultivation of Wharariki:

Coastal cliffs to mountain slopes, locally dominant on shady faces in high country, North, South and Stewart Islands.

Medicinal use of the herb:

None known

Known hazards of Phormium cookianum:

The root is highly purgative.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.