Ti (Cordyline fruticosa)

Ti (Cordyline fruticosa)
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Cordyline fruticosa (Ti plant, also known as the good luck plant), is an evergreen flowering plant in the family Laxmanniaceae, formerly treated in the family Agavaceae. It is a woody plant growing up to 4 m tall, with leaves 30-60 cm (rarely 75 cm) long and 5-10 cm wide at the top of a woody stem. It produces 40-60 cm long panicles of small scented yellowish to red flowers that mature into red berries. It is native to tropical southeastern Asia, Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, northeastern Australia, Indian Ocean[1] and parts of Polynesia. It is not native to Hawaii or New Zealand but exists on those islands as a feral weed introduced by Polynesian settlers. [2]

The Ti plant is most closely associated with Polynesia, its starchy rhizomes, which are very sweet when the plant is mature, were eaten as food or as medicine, and its leaves were used to thatch the roofs of houses, and to wrap and store food. The plant or its roots are referred to in most Polynesian languages as tī. Variants include kī (Hawaiʻian), sī (Tongan), and ʻautī (Tahitian).[2] Ti leaves were also used to make items of clothing including skirts worn in dance performances. The Hawaiʻian hula skirt is a dense skirt, an opaque layer of at least 50 green leaves with the bottom (top of the leaves) shaved flat. The Tongan dance dress, the sisi, is an apron of about 20 leaves, worn over a tupenu, and decorated with some yellow or red leaves (see picture at Māʻuluʻulu).[2]

In ancient Hawaiʻi Ti was thought to have great spiritual power; only high priests and chiefs were able to wear leaves around their necks during certain ritual activities. Ti leaves were also used to make lei, and to outline borders between properties (for which its alternative name: terminalis). To this day some Hawaiians plant Ti near their houses to bring good luck. The leaves are also used for lava sledding. A number of leaves are lashed together and people ride down hills on them.

Ti is a popular ornamental plant, with numerous cultivars available, many of them selected for green or reddish or purple foliage.