Palm lily

Cordyline fruticosa (Asparagaceae)

Characteristics

Evergreen, palm-like, woody plant, up to 3 m tall. Fan-like and spirally arranged cluster of broadly elongated leaves at the tip of the slender trunk. Numerous color variations, ranging from red to green to variegated forms. Yellowish to red flowers that mature into red berries. The plant is of great cultural importance to the traditional animistic religions of Austronesian and Papuan people of the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Island Southeast Asia. It is also cultivated for food, traditional medicine and as an ornamental for its variously colored leaves.

Distribution

Original native distribution unknown but believed to be in Southeast Asia and New Guinea. It was carried throughout Oceania by Austronesians (canoe plant).

Natural Medical Properties

An infusion of the leaves is used as a remedy for swellings, inflammations and for dry fevers.
The juice of the leaves is used to treat colds and coughs, stomach-ache, eczema and gastritis.
An infusion of three crushed leaves of the purple cultivar is used to treat high blood pressure.
The leaf buds are used to treat lower chest pains.
Filariasis is treated with a solution made from the new plant shoots.
Applied externally, the juice of the leaves is used to treat earache and infected eyes.
An infusion of the leaves in oil is used to treat wounds.
The leaves are crushed with oil and applied to abscesses of the gums.
The lower portion of the leaf is macerated in olive oil and used as a cataplasm or tampon for treating wounds.
Liquid from the stem is used to treat sickness after childbirth and to help expel the afterbirth.
The root is used to treat inflammations, baldness, toothache and laryngitis.
Pieces of the root, soaked in vinegar, are used to make a preparation against bleeding.

The plant contains steroidal saponins.

Did you know?

Palm lily” is neither a palm (Arecaceae) nor a lily (Liliaceae). It belongs to the asparagus family (Asparagaceae) and is closely related (same genus) to the Cabbage tree (Cordyline australis), endemic to New Zealand.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species