Cabbage Tree
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Cabbage Tree
ntroduced Photo: Saba Firoze
Common name: Cabbage Tree
Botanical name: Cordyline australis    Family: Asparagaceae (Asparagus family)
Synonyms: Cordyline forsteri, Cordyline superbiens, Cordyline sturmii

Cabbage tree grows up to 20 m tall with a stout trunk 1.5-2 m in diameter. Before it flowers, it has a slender unbranched stem. After the first flowering, it divides to form a much-branched crown with tufts of leaves at the tips of the branches. Each branch may fork after producing a flowering stem. The pale to dark grey bark is corky, persistent and fissured, and feels spongy to the touch. The long narrow leaves are sword-shaped, erect, dark to light green, 0.5-3 ft long and 3-7 cm wide at the base, with numerous parallel veins. The leaves grow in crowded clusters at the ends of the branches, and may droop slightly at the tips and bend down from the bases when old. They are thick and have an indistinct midrib. The fine nerves are more or less equal and parallel. The upper and lower leaf surfaces are similar. In spring and early summer, sweetly perfumed flowers are produced in large, dense flower spikes 2-3 ft long, bearing well-spaced to somewhat crowded, almost stalkless flowers and axes. The flowers are crowded along the ultimate branches of the panicles. The bracts which protect the developing flowers often have a distinct pink tinge before the flowers open. The individual flowers are 5-6 mm in diameter, the tepals are free almost to the base, and reflexed. The stamens are about the same length as the tepals. The fruit is a white berry 2-3 inches in diameter which is eaten by birds. The nectar attracts great numbers of insects to the flower.

Identification credit: Tabish Photographed in Botanical Gardens, Ooty.
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