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NZ Plants

Phormium tenax, harakeke

Family: Hemerocallidaceae

Phormium tenax is a tall, perennial plant spreading by stout horizontal stems (rhizomes). Leaves are crowded in two opposite fan-like rows and are stiff and erect at the base and flexuous or pendulous in upper portions. Leaves have a strong midvein and numerous smaller minor veins strengthened by tough fibre bundles. Flowers are bright orange-red, arranged in groups along a tall erect stem. Sometimes placed in the Xanthorrhoeaceae.
An endemic plant favouring wetlands but also tolerating dry lowland and coastal sites.
There are two species of Phormium in New Zealand and both are endemic: (1) Phormium tenax (harakeke or New Zealand flax) and (2), P. cookianum (wharariki or mountain flax). Both are used by the Māori, however harakeke is more widespread and has superior qualities; sixty named varieties, each with a preferred use, are recognised.

Preparation of leaves for fibre (muka)

Preparation of leaves for plaiting

Vegetative characteristics

Reproductive characteristics

Plant form: perennial herb up to 5 m

Flower symmetry: asymmetric

Leaf form: undivided, linear, tapering

Flower size:  up to 50 mm long

Leaf size: 1-3 m long

Sepals, petals:  6, red

Leaf arrangement: opposite

Sexuality: bisexual

Leaf attachment:

Stamens: 6

Leaf margin:  smooth

Ovary: below tepals

Leaf surface:  smooth

Fruit: dry, capsule