Astelia fragrans is one of the most common species of Astelia growing throughout the country on the forest floor. It grows from sea level to elevations of approximately 900 metres. It has broad green flax-like leaves, stiffly arched and flushed red at the midrib. As the name suggests, it has scented flowers that appear in Spring. When the berries mature, they turn orange.
Astelia fragrans grows in fertile, well-drained or moist but well-drained soil, though it will tolerate dry periods. Foliage may be damaged by cold winds and hard frosts (-3). 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. Best in sheltered semi-shade.