Scientific name: Phormium tenax
Wetland plant group: Flax
Plant growth form: Up to 3m tall
Flowering: Late spring to early summer
Related species: P. cookianum (wharariki) is a smaller flax plant which is common on the coast.
Harakeke (flax) is a very common wetland plant that is also found in the moist hollows of sand dunes and at other coastal sites. It has big leaves that grow stiff and upright. The black flower stalks can grow up to 5m tall and the dull red, nectar-filled flowers attract masses of birds in spring. The seeds are held in upright pods from late spring through autumn.
Māori recognise 60 named forms of harakeke, varying in leaf shape, colour and fibre quality. Harakeke is used by Māori to make kete (baskets), whāriki (floor mats), kākahu (cloaks), and ropes. Harakeke supported a thriving rope export industry in New Zealand until it was replaced by synthetic fibres.