Cordyline obtecta


Cordyline: From the Greek kordyle 'club'
obtecta: Covered over; protected

Common Name(s)

Three Kings cabbage tree

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Range Restricted


2012 - RR, SO, Sp


Cordyline obtecta (Graham) Baker



Brief Description

Palm-like small tree with many erect branches or multiple trunks that have tufts of tough long narrow pointed leaves inhabiting the northern tip of the North Island and offshore islands. Leaves 60-65cm long by 5.5-7cm wide, usually erect, midrib not obvious. Fruit small, white.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Monocotyledonous Trees and Shrubs


Cordyline kaspar W.R.B.Oliv. (New Zealand only). C. baueri Hook.f. nom. superfl. (Norfolk Island only)


Indigenous. New Zealand: Three Kings Islands (North East Island, Manawa Tawhi (Great Island), South West Island and West Island), North Island (North Cape and Murimotu Island), Poor Knights Islands (Aorangi and Tawhiti Rahi). Also present on Norfolk Island, which is the type Locality for Cordyline obtecta.


Stout, widely branched tree to 6 m tall; trunk solitary or multi-trunked from base. Trunks up 0.45 m dbh; bark copious, firm, corky, grey-brown. Leaves concolorous, yellow-green, green to glaucous-green, often curved in upper half to one third; lamina o.60–0.65-1.0 × 0.055–0.07(-0.10) mm, broadly, lanceolate to ± oblanceolate, widest above middle; narrowed above base into short, hardly channelled petiole of half lamina-width or less; lamina similar on both surfaces, widest above middle; midrib obscure adaxially, more prominent abaxially, widened towards base, paler than rest of lamina; nerves fine, subequal, ± parallel but meeting midrib at appreciable angle. Inflorescence a broad densely flowered panicle 0.8-1.0(-1.2) m long, branched to second or third order, branches well spaced, lower bracts foliaceous, green entire or bilobed; ultimate racemes c. 100–200(-300) mm long, c.20 mm diameter (including flowers); axes visible between flowers. Peduncle very stout 10-30 mm diameter. Flowers white, strongly and very sweetly scented; perianth c.5–6 mm long, tube c.2 mm long; tepals patent. Stamens about the same length as tepals; filaments long-connate or not, if connate then the free portion as broad as the anther and not much longer. Stigma shortly trifid. Fruit c.4 mm diameter, globose, white. Seeds c.3.5 mm diameter, glossy, deeply notched on one side. Description adapted from Moore & Edgar (1970).


September - December

Flower Colours



March - June

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed, emergent shoot, stem and even trunk cuttings. Reasonably hardy, certainly less prone to Cabbage Tree Decline. Cordyline obtecta will tolerate most soils and moisture regimes but dislikes long periods of drought and is frost sensitive. Excellent in pots and tubs.


Not Threatened in New Zealand though it is very localised and so possibly at some risk on Norfolk Island. In New Zealand Cordyline obtecta is very common on the main islands of the Three Kings which are protected as Nature Reserves. It is less common south of there but still rather widespread especially on remote Murimotu and the Poor Knights Islands (another Nature Reserve).

Chromosome No.

2n = 38

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Fleshy berries are dispersed by frugivory (Thorsen et al., 2009).


Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 14 February 2011. Description adapted from Moore & Edgar (1970).

References and further reading

Moore, L.B.; Edgar, E. 1970: Flora of New Zealand Vol. II. Wellington, Government Printer.  

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11: 285-309

This page last updated on 2 Jul 2014