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Edible uses


The roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute[1][2].

An edible nectar is obtained from the flowers[2]. Very wholesome eating[3]. A long hollow grass-stalk or straw is used to suck it out of the flowers[3].

An edible gum is obtained from the base of the leaves[2].

Unknown part

Material uses

A very high quality pliable fibre is obtained from the leaves[4][5][6][7][1]. It is used in the manufacture of ropes (they are not very strong[8]), twine, fine cloth etc. The fibre can also be used for making paper[9] The leaves are harvested in summer, they are scraped to remove the outer skin and are then soaked in water for 2 hours prior to cooking. The fibres are cooked for 24 hours with lye and then beaten in a ball mill for 4 hours. They make a cream paper[9].

The split leaves can be used to make nets, cloaks, sandals, straps etc[1]. They are also used in making paper and basket making[1][10]. A strip of a leaf is an excellent emergency string substitute for tying up plants in the garden, it can be tied into a knot without breaking[7]. The leaf pulp, after the fibre has been removed, can be fermented to make alcohol[1]. A gum found in the leaves is used as a paper glue[2]. A brown dye is obtained from the flowers[11], it does not require a mordant[10]. A terra-cotta dye is obtained from the seedpods[11]. A mauve can also be obtained[11].

The flowers are rich in tannin[11].

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

There are no medicinal uses listed for Phormium tenax.


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


The seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Sow stored seed in February in a cold frame. Germination is sometimes poor but should take place in 1 - 6 months at 15°c. The seedlings are very variable. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seed remains viable for about 12 months in normal storage[12]. Division in spring as growth commences. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Phormium tenax. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Prefers a rich loamy soil[12] but is not too fussy, succeeding in peaty soils and in boggy moorland[4]. Tolerates light shade[12] but prefers full sun[13]. Plants can be grown in quite coarse grass, which can be cut annually in the autumn[14]. Prefers a sheltered position[15] but tolerates maritime exposure[16]. Plants tolerate occasional flooding with saline water[13].

Plants can withstand temperatures down to about -11°c[15], but they can be killed in very severe winters in Britain[4]. A polymorphic species[17], there are many named varieties grown in Britain[4][13]. This species hybridizes readily with P. colensoi and there are many named forms that may be hybrids with that species[4]. This plant has been considered for commercial cultivation for its fibre, though there is some difficulty in mechanically extracting the fibres due to the presence of a gum in the leaves. An alkali has been successfully used to break down the gum but this weakens the fibre. The Maoris had selected many different cultivars for different uses[1].

Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits[14].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Phormium tenax. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Phormium tenax.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Phormium tenax
Imported References
Edible uses
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Salinity
  • Strong wind
  • Maritime exposure
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
None listed.
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Deciduous or Evergreen
Herbaceous or Woody
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
3 x 2 meters
Flower Colour
Flower Type


  1. ? Brooker. S. G., Cambie. R. C. and Cooper. R. C. Economic Native Plants of New Zealand. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-558229-2 (1991-00-00)
  2. ? Crowe. A. Native Edible Plants of New Zealand. Hodder and Stoughton ISBN 0-340-508302 (1990-00-00)
  3. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
  4. ? Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
  5. ? 5.05.1 Schery. R. W. Plants for Man. ()
  6. ? 6.06.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
  7. ? Laing. and Blackwell. Plants of New Zealand. Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd (1907-00-00)
  8. ? 8.08.1 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
  9. ? Bell. L. A. Plant Fibres for Papermaking. Liliaceae Press (1988-00-00)
  10. ? Buchanan. R. A Weavers Garden. ()
  11. ? Grae. I. Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants. MacMillan Publishing Co. New York. ISBN 0-02-544950-8 (1974-00-00)
  12. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
  13. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
  14. ? 14.014.1 Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants J. M. Dent & Sons, London. ISBN 0 460 86048 8 (1990-00-00)
  15. ? 15.015.1 Grey. C. H. Hardy Bulbs. Williams & Norgate. (1938-00-00)
  16. ? Rosewarne experimental horticultural station. Shelter Trees and Hedges. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1984-00-00)
  17. ? Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers. MacMillan and Co (1948-00-00)
  18. ? Allan. H. H. Flora of New Zealand. Government Printer, Wellington. (1961-00-00)

Cite error: <ref> tag with name "PFAFimport-17" defined in <references> is not used in prior text.

Facts about "Phormium tenax"RDF feed
Article is incompleteYes +
Article requires citationsNo +
Article requires cleanupYes +
Belongs to familyAgavaceae +
Belongs to genusPhormium +
Has binomial namePhormium tenax +
Has common nameNew Zealand Flax +
Has drought toleranceIntolerant +
Has edible partUnknown part +
Has edible useCoffee +, Gum + and Nectar +
Has environmental toleranceMaritime exposure +, High wind + and Salinity +
Has flowers of typeHermaphrodite +
Has hardiness zone8 +
Has lifecycle typePerennial +
Has material partUnknown part +
Has material useAdhesive +, Ethanol +, Basketry +, Dye +, Fibre +, Gum +, Paper + and Tannin +
Has mature height3 +
Has mature width2 +
Has salinity toleranceTolerant +
Has search namephormium tenax + and new zealand flax +
Has shade toleranceLight shade +
Has soil ph preferenceAcid +, Neutral + and Alkaline +
Has soil texture preferenceSandy +, Loamy + and Clay +
Has sun preferenceFull sun +
Has taxonomic rankSpecies +
Has taxonomy namePhormium tenax +
Has water requirementshigh +
Is deciduous or evergreenEvergreen +
Is taxonomy typeSpecies +
PFAF cultivation notes migratedNo +
PFAF edible use notes migratedNo +
PFAF material use notes migratedNo +
PFAF medicinal use notes migratedYes +
PFAF propagation notes migratedNo +
PFAF toxicity notes migratedYes +
Tolerates maritime exposureYes +
Tolerates nutritionally poor soilNo +
Tolerates windYes +
Uses mature size measurement unitMeters +
Has subobjectThis property is a special property in this wiki.Phormium tenax +, Phormium tenax +, Phormium tenax +, Phormium tenax +, Phormium tenax +, Phormium tenax +, Phormium tenax +, Phormium tenax +, Phormium tenax +, Phormium tenax + and Phormium tenax +