A modern reference to temperate woody plants, including updated content from this site and much new material, can be found at Trees and Shrubs Online.

Phormium cookianum Le Jolis

Mountain Flax

Modern name

Phormium colensoi Hook.f.


P. colensoi Hook. f.; P. hookeri Gunn ex Hook. f.

This is, in general aspect, similar to the better known P. tenax described below, but its leaves are usually only 2 to 5 ft high, less stiff and often drooping. So far as the cultivated plants are concerned, there is the further difference that the leaves are lighter green, rarely glaucous, and without the orange-coloured or red line on the leaf margins that is commonly seen in P. tenax (but not a distinctive character of that species as a whole). The flowers, too, are paler than in P. tenax, the inner segments being yellow or greenish yellow, the outer ones yellow or yellowish red. The seed-vessel is twisted (not so in P. tenax). Bot. Mag., t. 6973.

Native of New Zealand, from the North to Stewart Island; described by Le Jolis in 1848 from a plant brought direct from New Zealand to a garden at Cherbourg, and named by him after Captain Cook. Although it may share some habitats with P. tenax, it occurs most commonly on sea-cliffs and in mountain ‘fell-fields’.

cv. ‘Tricolor’. – Leaves 2 to 212 ft long, variegated with stripes of white and edged with red. Put into commerce by Messrs Duncan and Davies of New Zealand, who received their original stock from the Maoris.

cv. ‘Variegata’. – Leaves with marginal stripes of white. First Class Certificate when shown by the nurseryman William Bull in 1869.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

cv. ‘Tricolor’. – According to L. J. Metcalf, the original plant was found by a Mr Summers in the 1880s, growing on a steep bank of the Wainuiona river (Cult. N.Z. Tr. & Shr. (1972), pp. 209-10 and fig. 52).

† cv. ‘Cream Delight’. – Leaves with a broad central band of cream and a narrow green edge. Of moderate size and compact habit.



Other species in the genus