Taxonomic Description: Gr. kordyle club, ref. perhaps to the swollen "roots" (rhizomes); fruticosa shrubby.
Small lightly-branched tree or shrub to c. 2(-3) m tall, abundant in scrub and forest (but not in exposed coastal places). Stem c. 1 cm 0 in its leafy part, the leafless part at first with annular leaf-scars, not thickening much; rhizomes (i.e., underground stems) several, descending, short and swollen; stipules lacking; leaves spiralled, simple, tough and flexible, oblong-elliptic, c. 30-80 x 6-16 cm, entire, the petiole deeply concave above; flowers in panicles of c. 25 cm long; tepals 6, -t equal, white to pink, c. 10 mm long; stamens 6; ovary superior, 3-locular, style slender, stigma minutely 3-branched; fruit a berry, reddish, globose and with a short beak, c. 1 cm; seeds many, * hatchet- or lens-shaped, black, hard, shining, 2.5 mm.
Distribution Perhaps of Melanesian origin and taken by humans long ago across the Pacific (as far as Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island).
Notes Previously known as Cordyline terminalis.
The rhizomes, baked for several days in a large umu (earth oven), become sugary and edible - at least, the smaller ones do - the larger ones remain indigestibly woody (Whistler 2000).
The leaves are still commonly used to wrap food in umu cookery.
Cultivars, including some with red leaves, are grown as village ornamentals. They are referred to just as ti, while those in the wild may be called ti matalea, the "ti of the open land" (Sperlich 1997).
Because this tough plant is relatively unaffected by strong winds (so long as they are not laden with salt) its nectar-containing flowers and fleshy fruits become important "bridging" resources for birds in the year or so following a cyclone.