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Tree Campus: New Zealand Flax

Tree Campus SCC is a multi-year and interdisciplinary college initiative to document, map, and celebrate the incredible diversity of trees planted on the campus. With over 200 species, Shoreline Community College is an arboreal paradise that deserves to b


New Zealand Flax

Phormium tenax (ASPHODELACEAE)



New Zealand



"Flowers produce abundant nectar with high standing crops. Honeyeaters such as tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) and bellbirds (Anthornis melanura) feed heavily on nectar before and during breeding, but high annual variability in flowering makes nectar an unreliable food source." [2]


Equity: Cultural and Historical Significance

"Phormium represented an important resource in Maori life. Phormium leaves are traditionally used in the Maori culture for making plaiting mats and containers, while the extracted fibers have been used for making fishing nets, ropes, baskets, and cloaks." [1]

"Trade in P. tenax fibre burgeoned from first european contact with Maori in the late 18th century, with scientific research in this period and throughout the following century closely related to its economic use. This early research focused on techniques to improve commercial harvesting and processing (i.e., mechanical stripping), but also contains information on traditional Maori cultivars, ecology, and leaf structure." [2]



"During the last years, several papers were published concerning the use of P. tenax fibers as potential reinforcement in both thermoplastic and thermosetting matrices... The use of P. tenax fibers in composites requires an understanding of the mechanical behavior of the fibers themselves... P. tenax fibers have sufficient tensile properties to enable using them as a suitable reinforcement for polymer composites in semi-structural applications." [1]

"A resurgence in Maori weaving in the second half of the 20th century has revived the search for traditional knowledge of the uses and management of Phormium cultivars. Recognition of its importance to Maori as a fibre plant has led to further investigations of its cultivation, processing, fibre properties, and genetic variation within the species. a n emerging feature is the collaborative research between scientists and Maori weavers into areas of common interest. Moreover, despite the collapse of the Phormium flax milling industry in the early 20th century, there is renewed interest in the potential of P. tenax for future commercial development. Phormium tenax is increasingly used in ecological restoration plantings, erosion control, farm hedging, and riparian strips, and as a decorative garden plant." [2]



[1] De Rosa, I. M., Kenny, J. M., Puglia, D., Santulli, C., & Sarasini, F. (2010). Tensile behavior of New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) fibers. Journal of Reinforced Plastics and Composites, 29(23), 3450-3454.

[2] Wehi, P. M., & Clarkson, B. D. (2007). Biological flora of New Zealand 10. Phormium tenax, harakeke, New Zealand flax. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 45(4), 521-544.

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