Astelia grandis is the largest of our Astelias, growing to 2m much like Harakeke. Similar to Harakeke, many Astelia were used with Harakeke to give colour variation in weaving. It has very broad olive green leaves with a silvery sheen beneath and reddish-purple midribs. The leaves are more erect and less tapered than A.fragrans. Forms clumps to 2m. The Female has orange berries. As a result, the female plant is a good lizard and bird attractor. These sweet juicy berries are edible even when raw.
Astelia grandis grows in fertile, swampy soil, though it will tolerate dry periods. It is an understory plant in lowland swamp forests or Kahikatea forests, but it is found mostly in the warmer areas of the South Island. Dioecious, meaning male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
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.