grass tree, slender dragon tree
Vascular – Native
Trees & Shrubs - Dicotyledons
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.
Current conservation status
The threat classification status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2017 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS) – more information about this can be found on the NZTCS website This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2012 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: By Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, John W. Barkla, Shannel P. Courtney, Paul D. Champion, Leon R. Perrie, Sarah M. Beadel, Kerry A. Ford, Ilse Breitwieser, Ines Schönberger, Rowan Hindmarsh-Walls, Peter B. Heenan and Kate Ladley. Please note, threat classifications are often suggested by authors when publications fall between NZTCS assessment periods – a suggested threat classification status has not been assessed by the NZTCS panel.
2017 | Not Threatened
Previous conservation statuses
2012 | Not Threatened
2009 | Not Threatened
2004 | Not Threatened
Single-stemmed, grass tree up to 14 m tall, branch terminals bearing tufts of long, narrow leaves with curled ends. Flowers pink, borne in terminal panicles, these often obscured by leaves
Endemic. New Zealand: South Island (westerly from Nelson to northern Westland)
Lowland to upper montane (160-980 m a.s.l.). A species of forest communities overlying granidiorite, calcareous sandstone and conglomerate, or limestone. All the known populations occur on gentle to steep (5–45°) south-west to north-west-facing mountain slopes.
Tree 5–14 m tall with a single stem. Branches form a closed candelabrum-shaped crown. Bark on old stems light brown and flaky, on branchlets glabrous and yellowish brown. Leaves crowded at tips of branches in a bromelioid manner, old leaves sometimes present; lamina sheath light brown, 22–58 x 13–43 mm, coriaceous, striate, margin not membranous, shoulder tapering with a smooth margin; lamina coriaceous, light to mid green, linear to linear-triangular, 330-1000 x 10-20 (–32) mm, glabrous, prominently striated; margin cartilaginous, serrulate with 15–24 teeth per 10 mm; apex acute and prominently curled. Inflorescence a terminal panicle, shorter than the leaves, erect, dense, 190–320 mm long, pyramidal, densely branched; rachis and pedicels tomentose; inflorescence axis light green, 10.6–14.0 mm diam. at base; basal inflorescence branch 38–42(–55) mm long, widely spreading (50–90°); inflorescence bracts caducous, longer than flower, coriaceous, light green, ovate-triangular at base, 270–610 x 30–45 mm, glabrous; margin entire; apex acute. Flowers 600–1000 or more, arranged in groups of >10 on the basal inflorescence branches; bracteole caducous, shorter than flower, linear 2.0–8.0 x 0.5–1.5 mm, glabrous; pedicel straight, green, 0.5–2.0 mm long, tomentose. Sepals green, broadly ovate, 1–2 x 1.0–1.5 mm, shorter than corolla tube, striate, glabrous; margin ciliate; apex subacute to obtuse. Corolla light to dark pink; corolla tube campanulate, widened at mouth, 1.0–2.0 x 1.3–2.0 mm, exterior glabrous; corolla lobes spreading horizontally to reflexed, ovate-triangular, shorter than corolla tube, 1.2–1.4 x 1.0–1.3 mm; glabrous, apex obtuse. Stamens inserted at top of corolla tube; filament 0.3–0.5 mm long; anthers exserted, rectangular, young anthers pink, deep yellow when mature, 0.9–1.3 mm long. Ovary globose, 1.0–1.5 x 1.3–1.5 mm; apex tapering and glabrous; nectary scales separate, rectangular, 0.6–1.0 x 0.5–1.0 mm, apices subacute to irregularly toothed; style exserted, 1.5–1.7 mm long, glabrous, lengthening in fruit; stigma clavate. Fruit not enclosed in persistent sepals, reddish brown, 1.2–1.5 x 1.5–1.8 mm, depressed-globose; apex round and glabrous. Seed yellowish brown, filiform, 0.7–0.8 mm long with a slightly reticulated testa.
Allied to Dracophyllum traversii from which it differs by the longer, narrower leaves with curled apices; longer inflorescence bracts; sepals and corolla lobes that are shorter than the corolla tube; smaller nectary scales with toothed margins; and smaller ovary. From Dracophyllum latifolium it is distinguished by the longer inflorescence bracts; smaller corolla tube; corolla lobes that are shorter than the corolla tube; shorter filaments; narrower nectary scales and smaller ovary.
December - February
February - March
Minute seeds are wind dispersed (Thorsen et al., 2009).
Difficult - should not be removed from the wild
dracophyllum: Dragon leaf, from its likeness to the dragon tree of the Canary Islands
Where To Buy
Not commercially available
Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange (29 March 2008). Description adapted from Venter (2007)
References and further reading
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
NZPCN Fact Sheet citation
Please cite as: de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of access): Dracophyllum elegantissimum Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/dracophyllum-elegantissimum/ (Date website was queried)