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An evergreen tree with usually a single cylindrical, rarely branched stem up to 25 ft high, encircled by the scars of the fallen leaves. Leaves very numerous, forming a large head, 6 to 9 ft wide at the summit of the stem, the lower ones deflexed. Each leaf is from 3 to 6 ft long, 4 to 6 in. wide, at the middle, tapering to a long fine point, of hard texture, with prominent parallel veins running lengthwise; green, with often a distinct purplish tinge above, glaucous beneath; the midrib red or yellow. Panicles of flowers pendulous, 2 to 4 ft long, made up of numerous racemes; the main-stalk very thick, furnished with lanceolate bracts up to 6 in. long at the base, becoming smaller upwards. Racemes cylindrical, 4 to 6 in. long, 1 in. wide; closely packed with short-stalked flowers 1⁄3 in. wide. The six perianth lobes are much recurved, white suffused with green and lilac; anthers yellow; fruit a globose berry, purplish blue, 1⁄3 in. wide; seeds black, shining. Bot. Mag., t. 9096.
Native of New Zealand; discovered in 1773 on Cook’s second voyage. It is said to have been introduced to England about the middle of last century, but for many years other kinds of cordyline were grown in gardens under this name. (See for instance coloured plates in Illustration Horticole, Vols. 35 and 37.) I first saw the true plant, then about 6 ft high, in the late Mr Jonathan Rashleigh’s garden at Menabilly in Cornwall in 1893, but at that time it was very rare. A few years later an importation of good seed made it much more plentiful in the gardens of Cornwall, Ireland, W. Scotland, etc., where it withstands ten degrees of frost without injury. At Logan in Wigtownshire there is a specimen about 15 ft high which flowers every second year and bears good crops of its attractive violet berries. It is also grown at Inverewe in Wester Ross and at Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland (1966).
It is a most imposing plant when once its leaves have attained their full size – and on vigorous young specimens they will be 7 or 8 in. wide. After a period of years it develops a clean stem but it is never more stately than just before the stem commences to become bare at the base, the leaves being then at their largest. It likes rich soil and should be planted in a permanent place early, as it does not like pot culture and requires very careful transplanting after it has attained a good size. At Kew it needs greenhouse treatment. It appears as yet to be shy-flowering, but that may alter as the plants get older.