Phormium cookianum subsp. hookeri
mountain flax, wharariki
Phormium hookeri Hook.f.
Vascular – Native
Herbs - Monocots
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.
2n = 32
Current conservation status
The conservation 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). 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.
2012 | Not Threatened
Previous conservation statuses
2009 | Not Threatened
2004 | Not Threatened
Endemic. Common throughout New Zealand. Local in Northland. And often found inland on cliff faces and exposed rock ledges in the northern part of its range, becoming the dominant coastal flax south of Paekakariki.
Common from lowland and coastal areas through montane forest to subalpine habitats, usually but not exclusively on cliff faces and open rocky or boulder-strewn ground.
Stout liliaceous herb, 1-1.5(-2) m tall. Leaves numerous, arising from fan-like bases. Individual leaves stiff near base and semi-erect, becoming decurved or pendulous from basal third to half of length, 1(-1.5) x 20-80 mm, olive-green to yellow-green. Lamina margin, entire, somewhat thickened and finely pigmented red, orange-red or black. Inflorescence 1(-2) m tall, somewhat woody and fleshy when fresh, long persistent, drying pale grey, with the fibrous interior becoming progressively more exposed. Peduncle 20-30 mm diam., inclined, red-green to grey-green, glabrous. Flowers 25-40 mm long, tubular, greenish or yellow, sometimes flushed orange; tips of inner tepals markedly recurved. Ovary erect. Capsules 100-200 mm long, dark green, trigonous in cross-section, pendulous, tapering toward tip, twisted, initially fleshy becoming papery with age, long persistent. Seeds 8-10 x 4-5 mm, black, elliptic, flat and plate-like, margins frilled or twisted.
Distinguished from Phormium tenax by the pendulous, twisted capsules. Differing from subsp. cookianum by the longer, “floppy” uniformly olive green leaves which lack the dark-pigmented band present on the leaf lamina of subsp. cookianum. In the wild this is primarily a plant of cliff faces, boulder fields and talus slopes. It also often grows within grey-scrub. Very rarely it is sympatric with subsp. cookianum.
(September-) October-November (-January)
(November-) December (-March)
Very easy from fresh seed. Most commonly grown by the division of rooted “fans” from established plants.
phormium: Basket or basketwork
cookianum: After Captain Cook
hookeri: Named after Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (born 1817) - a world famous botanist who travelled on the Antarctic expedition of 1839 under the command of Sir James Ross and wrote “Handbook of New Zealand Flora” published in 1864-67 describing many specimens sent to Kew by collectors. He died in 1911 and has a memorial stone at Westminster Abbey London.
Where To Buy
Commonly cultivated. Some colour variants and variegated forms are grown, and some garden centres only stock these.
Fact sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange for NZPCN (1 June 2013)
NZPCN Fact Sheet citation
Please cite as: de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of access): Phormium cookianum subsp. hookeri Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/phormium-cookianum-subsp-hookeri/ (Date website was queried)