Cordyline fruticosa (ti plant)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Cordyline fruticosa (L.) A. Chev. (1919)
Preferred Common Name
- ti plant
Other Scientific Names
- Asparagus fruticosa L. (1767)
- Cordyline terminalis (L.) Kunth
- Cordyline ti Schott (1828)
International Common Names
- English: bongbush; cabbage palm; kiwi; palm lily; ti-palm
- Spanish: vara de San José (Spain)
- French: cordyline a fleurs terminales; dragonnier de Chine
Local Common Names
- Germany: Strauchige Keulenlilie
- UK: good luck plant; tree of kings
- CDLFR (Cordyline terminalis)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
C. fruticosa is an evergreen flowering plant that has become essentially pantropical. It is widespread in the Pacific Islands, Australia and tropical Asia (Little and Skolmen, 2003). Usually it is closely associated with settlements and occurs in gardens and hedges, but sometimes it has become naturalized in wild areas, spreading by seed and cuttings of stems or rhizomes. It is a common houseplant and this leads to dispersal in warm temperate areas when discarded. There are no reports that it damages native vegetation.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Monocotyledonae
- Order: Liliales
- Family: Agavaceae
- Genus: Cordyline
- Species: Cordyline fruticosa
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Cordyline fruticosa is one of about 15 species in the genus Cordyline, which is indigenous to the south-west Pacific (1 sp), Australia (7 spp), Norfolk Island (1 sp), New Zealand (5 spp) and South America (1 sp). The genus was first described by Rumpf (1653) as Terminalis and later as Cordyline by Robert Brown in Prodromus (1810). The genus Cordyline has been allied to many Monocotyledon Families, notably Asparagaceae, Liliaceae, Agavaceae, Dracaenaceae, Asteliaceae, Lomandraceae and, since DNA analysis, Laxmanniaceae. There is a closely related genus, Cohnia, with at least 4 spp in Mascarene and New Caledonia that is sometimes classified in Cordyline.
This species was named by Linnaeus as Convallaria fruticosa in 1754, as Asparagus fruticosa in 1767 and also as Dracaena terminalis in 1767. It was named Cordyline ti by Schott in 1828 and finally as Cordylinefruticosa by Chevalier in 1919. Many other synonyms have been applied to it in the genera Cordyline, Dracaena and Taetsia (The Plant List, 2013).It is still commonly referred to as C. terminalis (L.) Kunth, although the Plant List indicates this name is strictly speaking invalid.
DescriptionTop of page
C. fruticosa is a monocotyledon with secondary thickening in the stems and rhizomes (Simpson, 2000). This enables the plant to grow to 3-4 m tall with cane-like ‘trunks’ that occasionally fork. The stem bears a fan-shaped cluster of leaves at the tip. Each leaf blade is about 0.5 m long on a stalk that is somewhat shorter. The blade is broadly elongated and bright green in the wild species. The inflorescence is terminal on the stem and consists of a branched panicle about 20-40 cm long bearing many small white to red flowers. In wild plants the fruit is a round red berry about 8 mm diameter, adapted for bird dispersal, and contains many black seeds.
The stems are linked below ground to thick fleshy rhizomes that grow vertically or obliquely downwards. These bear long cordlike roots with fibrous side branches. The rhizomes bear scale leaves with buds and new aerial stems can arise from them, making a mature plant a clump of interconnected stems. The rhizomes store sugar in the form of fructose (Hinkle, 2005).
The following description is taken from Little and Skolmen (2003):
‘A shrub or small tree to 15 ft (4.6 m) high with light grey smoothish trunk to 3 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter, becoming warty and slightly cracked, with horizontal rings, not divided into bark and wood. Within the thin brown outer layer, the trunk is whitish, soft, and bitter.
Leaves are alternate but very crowded in a spiral at end of erect stout hairless branch, with stout grooved greenish leafstalk of 2–4 inches (5–10 cm), hairless. Blades narrowly oblong, 7–18 inches (18–45 cm) long and 2–4 inches (5–10 cm) wide, broadest near middle and gradually narrowed to long-pointed ends, not toothed on edges, thin and flexible, with many long fine parallel veins, shiny green on both surfaces, leaving a ring scar.
Flower clusters (panicles) large, arising from center of cluster of leaves, 12–15 inches (30–38 cm) long, curved and branched. Flowers many, stalkless on slender drooping branches, from narrow whitish buds 0.5 inches (13 mm) long, tinged with purple, composed of narrow calyx whitish tube with six pointed lobes curled back, six yellow spreading stamens inserted in throat, and white pistil with three-celled ovary and slender style.
Fruits (berries) rarely formed, about 0.4 inches (6 mm) in diameter, yellow, turning to bright red. Seeds few, shiny black.’
Plant TypeTop of page Perennial
DistributionTop of page
C. fruticosa is closely allied to the Australian species in Cordyline and is the northernmost of a north-south series of species from Cape York (Queensland) to New South Wales. It is native to lands neighbouring Cape York along the Bismarck Archipelago (where there is a wide range of natural variation) and perhaps to islands further north (Micronesia) and continental areas further west as far as Burma. It may also be native to Cape York itself. However, the exact indigenous distribution has been complicated by human dispersal and selection. The species has been carried throughout Polynesia and Melanesia as far as Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand, and has been selected into innumerable cultivars reflecting a wide range of uses in food, medicine, textiles and religion.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Cambodia||Present||Hinkle, 2007; Smithsonian, 2013||Possibly native|
|East Timor||Present||Hinkle, 2007||Possibly native|
|India||Smithsonian, 2013||Possibly native to the Himalayas|
|-Andaman and Nicobar Islands||Present||Hinkle, 2007|
|Indonesia||Widespread||Hinkle, 2007; Smithsonian, 2013||Possbly native|
|Malaysia||Widespread||Hinkle, 2007; Smithsonian, 2013||Possibly native|
|Myanmar||Present||Hinkle, 2007||Possibly native|
|Philippines||Present||Smithsonian, 2013||Possibly native|
|Singapore||Present||Hinkle, 2007; Smithsonian, 2013||Possbly native|
|Sri Lanka||Present||Hinkle, 2007|
|Thailand||Present||Hinkle, 2007; Smithsonian, 2013||Possibly native|
|Vietnam||Present||Hinkle, 2007; Smithsonian, 2013||Possibly native|
|USA||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
Central America and Caribbean
|American Samoa||Present||Hinkle, 2007|
|Australia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Queensland||Present||Smithsonian, 2013||Possibly native|
|Cook Islands||Widespread||Randall, 2012|
|French Polynesia||Widespread||Randall, 2012|
|Micronesia, Federated states of||Widespread||Simpson, 2000|
|New Caledonia||Present||Simpson, 2000|
|New Zealand||Localised||Simpson, 2000|
|Papua New Guinea||Widespread||Aufenanger, 1961|
|Solomon Islands||Widespread||Randall, 2012|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
From an indigenous origin in Papua or nearby, C. fruticosa was picked up by the migrating Polynesians (possibly from Taiwan) and carried to any island they happened to settle on. It was easily propagated from stem and rhizome cuttings. In the western Pacific the fleshy berries were dispersed by birds. Cultivars were selected and eventually a sterile cultivar was carried throughout eastern Polynesia (Hinkle, 2007). Maori carried it to New Zealand ca 13th century, including to the Kermadec Islands where it survives today. In New Zealand proper it is nearly extinct, with only one site of two plants recently discovered after a century of no records (Simpson, 2000). Subsequent to worldwide European settlement, it has been carried to warm, wet places as a colourful landscape/house plant.
IntroductionsTop of page
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
The fact that the eastern Pacific plants are sterile limits the risk of further spread there. In the west the plant has been present for centuries and is no longer strongly invasive, functioning like a native species. In the temperate latitudes it is limited in range by cold. In Australia there is a risk that it will hybridise with northern native cordylines (C. cannifolia, C. manners-suttoniae, C petiolaris, C. murchinsoniae) but there are no reports of this having occurred. New Zealand species and some Australian cordyline species hybridize (Simpson, 2000).
HabitatTop of page
Although fundamentally a forest plant, it favours open areas because it has a high-light requirement. Hence it is most common in human-disturbed sites. It grows from sea-level (wetlands) to 1200 m, and probably higher in its natural range.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details|
|Disturbed areas||Present, no further details|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Principal habitat|
|Riverbanks||Present, no further details|
|Wetlands||Present, no further details|
|Coastal areas||Present, no further details|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
There are no reports of damaging populations of C. fruticosa as it does not appear to form dense groves of significant extent. Being mostly sterile in a large part of its range, it reproduces by stem pieces or very rare reproductive seed events. It is theoretically possible that certain extremely local endemics could be restricted by C. fruticosa growth, for example due to shading, but it is more likely that other species could be inadvertently damaged (trampled) by people attracted to the cordyline in order to harvest the stems, rhizomes and particularly leaves.
Biology and EcologyTop of page
C. fruticosa is extremely variable as a result of ethnobotanical and horticultural selection. In the Papua-Solomon Islands region, some forms are reputed to form larger trees (Aufenanger, 1961); however, only one green form has been dispersed by people outside of this region. This form has been selected into innumerable cultivars, including pollen-sterile forms (Hinkle, 2007). The sterile form was probably selected to maximize the food storage capacity of the rhizomes. A similar situation was created by New Zealand Maori, who selected and cultivated a dwarf, sterile form of C. australis (Simpson 2000; Hinkle, 2007).
Being mostly sterile in a large part of its range, it reproduces by stem pieces or very rare reproductive seed events. It can probably regenerate after fire from buried rhizomes, and can also be dispersed by flood water.
ClimateTop of page
|Af - Tropical rainforest climate||Preferred||> 60mm precipitation per month|
|Am - Tropical monsoon climate||Tolerated||Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||10|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page Uniform
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- seasonally waterlogged
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
C. fruticosa is a ‘canoe plant’ and has been dispersed in this way to every inhabited island in tropical Pacific over the last 4000 years. Since European colonization it has been taken by boats and probably aeroplanes to all tropical parts of the world, and is grown indoors in most temperate parts of the world. Locally it spreads by stem/rhizome pieces, and sometimes by seed, both of which could be dispersed by flood water. It would be spread in garden rubbish dumps and after floods or roadworks. It is a highly sought-after plant and may be taken with people as they move house or property in most parts of the Pacific.
Pathway CausesTop of page
|Crop production||Deliberate; migration; horticulture||Yes||Hinkle, 2007; Simpson, 2000|
|Cut flower trade||Leaves; pantropical||Yes|
|Escape from confinement or garden escape||Accidental, discard house/garden plant||Yes|
|Garden waste disposal||Yes|
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
ImpactTop of page
C. fruticosa appears to be an entirely benign invasive species in ecological terms. It could potentially invade crops by being fragmented by ploughing, but there are no reports of this.
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Nototrichium humile (kaala rockwort)||EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Competition - monopolizing resources||National Tropical Botanical Garden, 2007|
|Pritchardia napaliensis||CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Competition - monopolizing resources||US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010|
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Is a habitat generalist
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Tolerant of shade
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Long lived
- Fast growing
- Has high reproductive potential
- Reproduces asexually
- Has high genetic variability
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - shading
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
UsesTop of page
It been selected into innumerable cultivars reflecting a wide range of uses in food, medicine, textiles and religion. It has a very wide range of uses by indigenous peoples in the Pacific. The leaves are used in cooking, weaving, dress, mats etc., the plants are used to form hedges, the rhizomes and leaves are used in medicines for many ailments, and the rhizomes are a source of carbohydrate. The plants are highly regarded spiritually and are especially common in cemeteries. Among non-indigenous people the coloured leaves are widely used in gardens and the floral trade, and are intensively propagated in nurseries (International Cordyline Society, 2012).
Uses ListTop of page
Drugs, stimulants, social uses
- Boundary, barrier or support
- Botanical garden/zoo
- Ritual uses
- Sociocultural value
Human food and beverage
- Beverage base
- Emergency (famine) food
- Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
- Cut flower
- Potted plant
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Several other leafy monocots look slightly like C. fruticosa, especially wild ginger. However, the latter does not have secondary wood (growth rings) in the stem. Several species of Dracaena are also similar in appearance (and also have secondary wood in the stems) but C. fruticosa is distinguishable by the brighter light-green colour and larger size of the leaves, as well as the vertical fleshy rhizomes.
Other species of Cordyline in Australia are very similar, and at one time were classified as varieties. These are C. manners-suttoniae (distinguished by being a much larger plant, with large pendulous bunches of berries); C murchinsoniae (very local in Queensland and a much smaller plant with shorter, broader leaves); C cannifolia (a Queensland rain forest species that is also generally smaller than C. fruticosa, with narrower pointed leaves), and C petiolaris, which is very similar but mostly limited to New South Wales. None of these species, all of which are rainforest-dwelling, are common, and C. fruticosa is rare in this region. C. fruticosa is so extremely variable as a result of ethnobotanical and horticultural selection that there is no way to distinguish it from the species named above except in an ecological context. Outside its possible natural range in Cape York, C. fruticosa will be closely tied to human settlement in the Australian landscape.
Prevention and ControlTop of page
There are probably no reasons to control this species because it is seldom a problem of any sort. However, it might be desirable to manage some islands as sanctuaries where only indigenous species are tolerated. The species is likely to be susceptible to common herbicides (as C. australis is), and could be manually eradicated by digging out the rhizomes.
ReferencesTop of page
Aufenanger H, 1961. The Cordyline plant in the Central highlands of New Guinea, 56.
Hinkle AE, 2005. Population structure and reproductive biology of the Ti plant (Cordyline fruticosa). California, USA: University of California, Berkeley.
Hinkle AE, 2007. Population structure of Pacific Cordyline fruticosa (Laxmanniaceae) with implications for human settlement of Polynesia. American Journal of Botany, 94(5):828-839. http://www.amjbot.org/
International Cordyline Society, 2012. International Cordyline Society. Wellington Point, Queensland, Australia. http://www.cordyline.org/
Little EL, Skolmen RG, 2003. Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced). Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced). Hawaii, USA: College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, Univeristy of Hawaii.
National Tropical Botanical Garden, 2007. http://ntbg.org
Randall RP, 2012. A Global Compendium of Weeds. Perth, Australia: Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, 1124 pp. http://www.cabi.org/isc/FullTextPDF/2013/20133109119.pdf
Simpson P, 2000. Dancing Leaves: the story of New Zealand's cabbage tree, ti kouka. Christchurch, New Zealand: Canterbury University Press, 324 pp.
Smithsonian NMNH, 2013. Cordyline fruticosa. Flora of the Hawaiian Islands. Flora of the Hawaiian Islands. Washington, DC, USA: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. http://botany.si.edu/pacificislandbiodiversity/hawaiianflora/speciesdescr.cfm?genus=Cordyline&species=fruticosa
ContributorsTop of page
09/09/2012 Original text by:
Philip Simpson, Consultant, New Zealand
Distribution MapsTop of page
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