More than meet the eye
By Cushla McGaughey
The Cabbage Tree is common in swamps, flood plains and forest margins, but will die if overgrown by larger trees.
The young cabbage tree develops as a single slender stem, until the first flowering.
The flower panicles arise from the growing tip, so causing the trunk to branch. Each successive flowering causes further branching.
There is much more to a Cabbage Tree than meets the eye.
The flowers attract honey bees and bumblebees, native bees and moths, tui and bellbirds. The fruits are important in the diet of kereru and popular with bellbirds.
Supporting the local ecosystem
The skirt of dead leaves forms a habitat for a variety of lizards, which forage among the flowers, eating nectar or catching insects.
Bellbirds like to nest under the dead leaves and in old flower stalks.
The cabbage tree is also a haven for native insect biodiversity, all using the tree in different ways. Some feed; some rest, like the Cabbage Tree Moth, safely camouflaged; and some, like the weta, find a dry place in winter.
All this life produces by-products, which decay to form nutrients that eventually flow down the cabbage tree stems to feed the roots or increase the fertility of the soil.