Astelia chathamica is a striking specimen. It does well as a centrepiece or in a container as it tolerates a wide range of conditions. Broad, flax-like leaves with a silvery sheen. Separate male and female plants. Male plants have dark green, scented flowers and female plants have pale green flowers. As such, they are better propagated from seed to ensure a mix of sex and sustainability. Flowers from February to July followed by orange berries on female plants in autumn.
Endemic to the Chatham Islands, Astelia chathamica is a hardy coastal plant requiring very little care. Astelias are an epiphyte which means that they have a terrestrial habit and aerial roots. As such, they can often be found growing on cliff faces or in the nook of a large tree branch. Soil should be free draining but moist. They will not tolerate continuous cold, wet damp conditions or being planted too deep.
Kakaha occupies a range of moist sites. It can be found on forest floors, cliffs, rock bluffs, lakeshore scarps and stream margins, as well as in swamps. It was formerly widespread, but now tends to be restricted to sheltered, rocky, or protected spots in the bush or scrub where it is safe from grazing. Downgraded from Threatened (2004) to At Risk- Recovering (2012), browsing and physical destruction by stock and feral animals have impacted severely on this species. For more information on the conservation status definitions, refer to DOC’s website here.
Works well in a pot with native groundcovers allowing this plant to become a specimen, or sheltered under a larger tree.