Kahakaha – Astelia hastatum

Kahakaha or Perching Lily is an epiphytic plant found nesting in the canopy. In some places it grows so densely that it forms an aerial garden, suspended amongst the tree tops. Early European bushmen called the plant Widow Maker as the plants often fell to the ground when they were milling native timber. Sometimes the weight of the plants could snap branches, threatening to crush unsuspecting victims below.


The red jelly-like berries surely rank as one of the better tasting native plant foods, and were eagerly eaten by Maori children. The leaves were woven into sandals and headbands, and women used the white downy fibers on the underside of the leaves to ornament their hair. Baskets made from the leaves were used to cook eels and Hinau cakes.


Want to find out more?
New Zealand Plant Conservation Network
Nga Tipu Whakaoranga – Māori Plant Use Database

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