Description: Erect or sprawling glabrous shrubs to 5 m high; stems woody with annular scars when young.
Leaves tufted at end of branches, sometimes narrowed into a petiole, base widened into a sheath.
Inflorescence a terminal or lateral panicle. Flowers actinomorphic, bisexual. Tepals fused at base, bluish to mauve or white. Stamens 6; filaments inserted at base of perianth. Ovary superior; ovules 2–16 in each loculus; stigma capitate or 3-lobed.
Fruit a berry; seeds black, shining.
Flowering: Flowers are often described as sweet–scented, but information is not available for all species in N.S.W.
Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 20 species, tropical & subtropical regions, chiefly Asia to New Zealand, but also Africa & South America. Australia: 9 native species (8 species endemic), Qld, N.S.W. One naturalised species, C. australis.
C. congesta, C. petiolaris and C. rubra were previously included in C. fruticosa (L.) A. Chev. s. lat. C. fruticosa s. str. is native to N Qld, Malesia and Pacific islands but has been cultivated more widely by humans than its original distribution would have been in this region. This genus has often been included in the Agavaceae.
Text by G. J. Harden (1993); edited KL Wilson (July 2008; Jan 2013; April 2014)
| ||Key to the species|| |
|1||Fruits whitish when mature; flowers white; inflorescence 60–150 cm long[; leaf gradually tapering to base so petiole not clearly distinct from lamina]||Cordyline australis|
|Fruits yellow, orange, red or black when mature; flowers blue to mauve or occasionally white; inflorescence 20–40 cm long||2|
|2||Fruit purple to black when mature; leaf gradually tapering to base so petiole not clearly distinct from lamina||3|
|Fruit red or orange-red when mature; petiole distinct from leaf lamina|
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|3||Leaves more or less linear, 1–1.5(–2.2 but then minimum width c. 8 mm) cm wide at widest point, 5–8 mm wide at narrowest point||Cordyline stricta|
|Leaves narrow-elliptical to more or less linear, 2–3 cm wide at widest point, 3–5 mm wide at narrowest point|
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|Cordyline sp. Mt Banda Banda (P.Hind 2232)|
|4||Leaves usually more than 5 cm wide, apex more or less toothed, petiole more or less tubular in section; tepals equal||Cordyline petiolaris|
|Leaves mostly less than 5 cm wide, apex not toothed, petiole more or less flat, not distinctly tubular in section; outer tepals shorter than inner tepals|
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|5||Leaves with margins (especially at junction of lamina and petiole) breaking down irregularly, rough, scabrous above; inflorescence congested, with several branches at the same node||Cordyline congesta|
|Leaves with margins smooth at junction of lamina and petiole; inflorescence not congested|
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