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Leaves erect, of hard tough texture, rigid except at the points, up to 6 or 9 ft long and 4 or 5 in. wide, tapering near the top to a fine point, green inside, glaucous outside, with a red or orange-coloured line on the margins and midrib; they are stalkless, sheathing at the base, keeled, and V-shaped farther up, flattening out more towards the apex which is slit on old leaves. Flowers produced in summer on a panicle 5 to 15 ft high, each flower 1 to 2 in. long, with the six dull red segments separate but assuming a tube-like arrangement. Bot. Mag., t. 3199.
Native of New Zealand, including Stewart Island, the Chatham Islands, and Auckland Island; also of Norfolk Island. It was discovered during Cook’s first voyage (1769-70), but the seeds collected by Sir Joseph Banks and brought home failed to germinate. It was successfully introduced to Kew in 1789.
Although said to ascend to 4,000 ft, it is in the main a plant of the lowlands, common in coastal and swamp associations. It is a very variable species, and the description given above is of a cultivated example and is not intended to represent the species as a whole. According to Moore and Edgar, in Flora of New Zealand, Vol. 2, the leading characters of P. tenax are the stiff more or less erect leaves up to 10 ft long, the usually dull red flowers, the straight carpels and the erect, straight, dark coloured seed-vessel. For cultivation, hardiness, etc., see introductory note.
The cultivars of New Zealand origin now in commerce are very numerous and not fully tested for hardiness. Since this species and P. cookianum have hybridised, the proper position of some cultivars usually listed under P. tenax is uncertain, though drooping leaves do not necessarily indicate the influence of the former.
Among the most notable of the new introductions are ‘Dazzler’, with partly pendulous leaves, maroon purple with pink stripes; ‘Sundowner’, with wide, erect leaves, reddish at the centre, the margins pink fading to cream; and ‘Yellow Wave’, with erect, almost wholly yellow leaves; all three vigorous. Also ‘Maori Sunrise’, lower-growing, with pendulous leaves variegated at the centre in shades of red and pink, margined with bronze.