Astelia chathamica


Astelia: Stemless
chathamica: From the Chatham Islands

Common Name(s)

Chatham Island astelia or kakaha, Moriori flax

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Recovering

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 - Recovering
2004 - Threatened - Nationally Endangered


2012 - CD, IE, RR
2009 - IE, RR


Astelia chathamica (Skottsb.) L.B.Moore



Brief Description

Kakaha has long flax-like leaves clad in silvery hairs. Male and female flowers are found on separate plants. The male flower stalk is very thick and bears dark green, scented flowers, while the female plant has pale, greenish-white flowers. Flowering occurs from October to December, while the orange or red fruit may be seen from February to July.

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 Herbs


Astelia nervosa var. chathamica Skottsb.


Endemic to the Chatham Islands where it is known from Chatham Island and Pitt Island.


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. It was formerly widespread, but now tends to be restricted to sheltered, rocky, or protected spots in the bush or scrub where it is safe from grazing.


October - December

Flower Colours



February - July


Browsing and physical destruction by stock and feral animals have impacted severely on this species.

Chromosome No.

2n = 70

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

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

Where To Buy

Commonly available as Astelia cv. Silver Spear.


Fact Sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 1 August 2003.

References and further reading

Walls, G.; Baird, A.; de Lange, P.J.; Sawyer, J.W.D. 2002: Threatened plants of the Chatham Islands. Wellington, Department of Conservation.

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 2009 Vol. 11 No. 4 pp. 285-309

This page last updated on 19 Dec 2014