August 17, 2017

A Good Dose of Fiber

Plants from Middle Earth

Garden Maine’s New Zealand Extravaganza – Celebrating a Completely Unexpected Journey

Anna Paton Photo | Phormium tenax - Harakeke

Anna Paton Photo | Phormium tenax – Harakeke

Anna Paton Photo | Phormium tenax - Harakeke

Anna Paton Photo | Phormium tenax – Harakeke

It’s just flax in New Zealand, but New Zealand flax elsewhere. Phormium tenax is a massive plant, reaching 8 to 10 feet in height with olive green leaves. The flowers form on tall stalks above the strappy foliage. Called Harakeke in Maori, P. tenax was found during Captain Cook’s second journey to the South Pacific, likely on a beach, one of its varied habitats that include coastal cliffs to alpine lakes. The plant is a source of fiber, which has been used in textiles, rope and sail-making. Ecologically, it is home to a species of jumping spiders and provides habitat for the Yellow-eyed Penguin.

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Photographs kindly provided by Anna Paton of Auckland, New Zealand, at Auckland Botanic Gardens in November 2012. For a brief interview with Anna, click to read here.

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“New Zealand’s flora is described as being unique due to our long isolation many thousands of years ago. We have some 2,357 different plant species and approximately 80% of them are endemic, meaning they don’t occur anywhere else in the world.”

– From the Auckland Botanic Gardens website

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How did all this come about? You can read about how Janine Pineo of Garden Maine found Anna Paton, more than 9,000 miles away, as the crow flies. If a crow could fly 9,000 miles like that. Click here for that story.