Cordyline fruticosa (Ti plant, also known as the good luck plant),
is an evergreen flowering plant in the family Laxmanniaceae,
formerly treated in the family Agavaceae. It is native to tropical
southeastern Asia, Papua New Guinea, northeastern Australia and
across Polynesia to Hawaii. It is present in New Zealand, where it
is thought to have been introduced from Polynesia by Māori.
It is a woody plant growing up to 4 m tall, with leaves 30-60 cm
(rarely 75 cm) long and 5-10 cm wide at the top of a woody stem. It
produces 40-60 cm long panicles of small scented yellowish to red
flowers that mature into red berries.
Cultivation and uses
The ti plant is most closely associated with Polynesia, where the ti
plant proved to be very versatile, especially for its large leaves.
Ti leaves were woven into roof thatch, clothing (especially dance
dress), and other items. Its starchy rhizomes were eaten as food
(very sweet when the plant gets older) and used medicinally,the
boiled roots were brewed into a potent liquor known as 'okolehao.
The large, sweet starchy roots were baked and eaten as a dessert.
This versatile plant also had many medicinal uses, either alone or
as a wrapping for other herbs needing to be steamed or boiled. The
ti leaves were wrapped around warm stones to serve as hot packs,
used in poultices and applied to fevered brows. A drink from boiled
green ti leaves were used to aid nerve and muscle relaxation. Steam
from boiled young shoots and leaves made an effective decongestant.
The pleasantly fragrant flowers were also used for asthma and its
leaves were used to wrap food and other items.