New Zealand Flaxes

New Zealand Flax Lesser New Zealand Flax New Zealand Flax Lesser New Zealand Flax

What are they?

These often large and imposing plants are members of the asphodel family (Asphodelaceae) and are native to New Zealand. They first became popular in the UK as garden plant in the 1970s and are sold not only in their natural green forms, but also in an array of vareigated forms, with leaves striped in reds, creams or copper colours. The plants have tough, almost leathery, leaves with a waxy sheen and they are folded in half at the base but opened flat for much of their length. The tough leaves withstand the wind well, but often split distinctively along the midvein at the tips. The flowers appear in large clusters on tall, showy spikes. Each flower is narrowly tubular with six tepals (the three petals and three sepals looking very similar to each other) and six stamens.

Where are they found?

New Zealand Flaxes are widely planted by local authorities in municipal plantings, especially near the coast due to their tolerance of windy and salty conditions. Plants may occasionally be found where garden waste has been dumped on rough ground and untended corners.

Identification

The two species are rather similar and come in a bewildering array of colour forms. As small plants, they can be impossible to tell apart at times and are best separated by differences in their flowers.



New Zealand Flax      Phormium tenax

Introduced from New Zealand as a garden ornamental and widely planted in parks and other municipal plantings. Occasionally found where garden waste has been dumped but seldom seems to persist for long. Flowers June to August. Full grown plants may form large clumps to 3m in height and 2m across. Leaves 1-3m long and 5-12cm wide, typically blue-green in colour and rather stiff. Flowers dark red, the three inner tepals with slightly recurved tips.

New Zealand Flax New Zealand Flax New Zealand Flax New Zealand Flax
Habit
Habit
Flower
Flowers
New Zealand Flax New Zealand Flax
Leaves
Leaf tip


Lesser New Zealand Flax      Phormium colensoi

Introduced from New Zealand as a garden ornamental and widely planted in parks and other municipal plantings. Occasionally found where garden waste has been dumped but seldom seems to persist for long. Flowers June to August. Forms clumps to 2m in height (often less) and 2m across. Leaves 1-2m long and 3.5-6.5cm wide, naturally blue-green in colour but more often planted in red, bronze or creamy yellow forms. Flowers yellow-orange with a greenish wash, the three inner tepals with clearly recurved tips.

Lesser New Zealand Flax Lesser New Zealand Flax Lesser New Zealand Flax Lesser New Zealand Flax
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Flowers
Lesser New Zealand Flax Lesser New Zealand Flax Lesser New Zealand Flax Lesser New Zealand Flax
Flowers
Leaves
Leaves
Seed capsules